A CLINICAL trial has been approved to help the NHS treat Covid-19 patients using plasma.

If effective, the government says, a national programme will deliver up to 10,000 units of plasma a week to the NHS to help treat Covid-19 patients. And up to 5,000 severely ill patients with COVID-19 could soon be treated each week with plasma from those who have recovered from the illness as part of the new approach to treating the virus.

Matt Hancock, the Health and Social Care Secretary, said: "This global pandemic is the biggest public health emergency this generation has faced and we are doing absolutely everything we can to beat it.

"The UK has world-leading life sciences and research sectors and I have every hope this treatment will be a major milestone in our fight against this disease.

"Hundreds of people are participating in national trials already for potential treatments and the scaling up of convalescent plasma collection means thousands could potentially benefit from it in the future."

A statement issued by the Department of Health and Social Care says the national randomised clinical trial will help to determine if plasma collected from donors who have recovered from Covid-19, known as ‘convalescent plasma’, is an effective treatment for patients who are severely unwell with the illness. Plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients can be transfused to patients who are struggling to produce their own antibodies against the virus.

The government is also scaling up the national programme for collecting plasma so the treatment can be widely rolled out if it is shown to be effective. It says the collection of plasma would be ramped up over April and May to deliver up to 10,000 units of plasma to the NHS every week, enough to treat 5,000 Covid-19 patients per week.

Professor Jonathan Van Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said: "The UK is leading the world’s largest trials to find a treatment for Covid-19, with over 7,000 people so far involved testing a range of medicines; we hope to add convalescent plasma to this list shortly.

"Convalescent plasma has been used as an effective treatment for emerging infections in the past, and this step forward underpins our science-backed approach to fighting this virus."

NHS Blood and Transplant will contact people in England who have recovered from confirmed Covid-19 infection and could be a possible plasma donor, and the plasma will be collected at their centres.

Dr Gail Miflin, the Chief Medical Officer, NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "As well as continuing to collect enough blood throughout this outbreak, we are also heavily involved in the national research response including major trials of this potential treatment.

"We are rapidly building our capability to collect plasma so that we can quickly move into supplying hospitals at scale, should the proposed trial demonstrate patient benefit."