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Blood donation rules have changed

The rules on blood donation in England change on 28th November 2017

The changes, announced by the Government in July, were recommended by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) who had reviewed blood donor criteria related to risk behaviours. They give more people the opportunity to donate blood without affecting the safety of the blood supply.

Dr Gail Miflin, Medical and Research Director at NHS Blood and Transplant said:

The West End Donor Centre“The SaBTO review took into account the latest available medical and scientific evidence. This included more information about the risk of acquiring infections that can be passed on in blood, more evidence on how well donors comply with our guidelines and also more evidence that supports the reliability of the blood screening tests we use.

“We have one of the safest blood supplies in the world. Anyone may require a blood transfusion in the future and so it’s in all our interests to ensure that we work hard to keep blood safe for patients.

“This starts with selection of donors before they give blood. Everyone must answer questions on their health and lifestyle before they donate and answering these questions correctly is crucial, in order to keep blood safe”

Before every donation, all donors must complete a Donor Health Check and have a private health screening where they may be asked confidential questions based on their completed form. Although all donated blood is tested², there is a period of time following contact with any infection when it would not be detected by our screening tests.

Blood donation works on the values of kindness and mutual trust. It is vital that all potential and existing donors keep to the blood donor selection rules by giving completely accurate answers to all the questions asked confidentially at donation sessions, both for the protection of their own health and that of the patients who receive transfusions.

Subject to meeting the other donation rules, men who have had specific sexual activity¹ with another man; commercial sex workers and people who have sex with partners in groups known to have a high risk of having an infection that could be passed on during sex (high risk partners) will be able to donate after three months have passed since the last sexual activity.

Previously, commercial sex workers were permanently excluded from blood donation and the other groups had to wait until 12 months had passed before they could donate. The rules are now consistent for all groups that are deferred due to sexual behaviours.

Liam Beattie, Blood Donations Policy Lead at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

"We are pleased that the decision from July has been swiftly implemented, and that the new rules in place from today will enable more people to give blood, while maintaining the safety of the blood supply. We hope this paves the way for more progress as further evidence becomes available, and we’re now urging the government to continue to regularly review the deferral periods in line with the latest evidence. It will now be vital for those who are now eligible to donate blood to be made aware of these changes.”

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, NAT (National AIDS Trust), said:

"It’s great to see the new blood donation rules going live, enabling gay men to donate three months from their last sexual activity (as opposed to the previous 12 months) as well as also shortening the deferral period for other groups who were previously permanently deferred. This means more people can donate blood, the blood supply remains totally safe and the rules are based on up-to-date evidence. We look forward to working further with NHS Blood and Transplant as they explore the potential for further personalisation of donation rules for gay men."

Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive Officer at Stonewall, said:

"We’re pleased to see the Government and NHS Blood and Transplant respond to the Freedom to Donate campaign in such a promising way. Reducing the deferral period makes it easier for gay and bi men who want to donate blood and that’s an important step forward. However, there’s still work to do, as many gay and bi men will still be excluded from donating. To avoid this, we’d like to see the introduction of an individualised risk assessment of blood donors, which would allow more people to donate safely, regardless of their sexual orientation. We will continue to work with the Government and other organisations to create a fairer system for gay and bi men who want to donate blood."

NHS Blood and Transplant is committed to exploring ways that a more personalised risk assessment to allow more people to donate blood without impacting on blood safety could be introduced. Currently there is very little data on effective ways of carrying out such risk assessments. The initial scoping, evidence gathering and testing may take up to two years to complete to allow other international work to be considered.

ENDS

  1. This refers to men who have oral or anal sex with men
  2. As well as checking the blood group, all donations are tested for syphilis, Hepatitis B virus, Hepatitis C virus, Hepatitis E virus , Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and first time donors Human T-lymphotropic virus. In addition, we may also carry out additional tests for example when someone has returned from a malaria risk area.

Further information

  • For additional information please contact the NHS Blood and Transplant press office on 01923 367600 or via pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We are responsible for ensuring a safe and efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England. We are also the organ donation organisation for the UK and are responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • We are an essential part of the NHS and take pride in saving and improving lives by making the most of every voluntary donation, from blood and organs to tissues and stem cells.
  • Our work would not be possible without our donors - ordinary people doing extraordinary things by saving and improving the lives of others.
  • To find out more visit: www.nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • Follow us on social media: 
  • Blood donors can search for sessions, book appointments, change/cancel their appointments and change their contact details in real time at blood.co.uk
  • There are apps available for Android, Windows and Apple Smartphone and tablet devices which enable donors to search for sessions based on their location and book and manage appointments.
  • Our donor line - 0300 123 23 23 - is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with all calls charged at the standard local rate, even from mobile phones
  • NHS Blood and Transplant needs to collect 1.5 million units of blood each year to meet the needs of patients across England. It’s important that we collect the right amount of each blood group at the right time to meet patient needs.
  • There are four main blood groups – O, A, B and AB. Group O is the most common and therefore the most in demand. A regular supply of blood is vital – red cells last 35 days and platelets only 7 days.
  • If you’re already a blood donor, you could become a dedicated platelet donor at one of our 22 dedicated donor centres. We particularly need platelet donors with the A negative and AB negative blood groups. One platelet donation can help up to three adults or twelve babies or children. Visit platelets.blood.co.uk
  • The overall demand for blood is falling by 3-4% per year. This is due to improvements in clinical practice and is a trend that is being seen around the world. The drop in demand for blood is also thanks to our work with hospitals to ensure blood is used appropriately for patients.
  • We need nearly 200,000 new blood donors each year to replace those who no longer donate for reasons such as ill health, pregnancy or foreign travel and to ensure we have the right mix of blood groups to match patient needs in the future
  • Some blood groups, such as O negative (the universal blood group), A negative and B negative are particularly vulnerable to shortfalls. So we want people with those blood groups to donate as regularly as they can. We also need more black African, black Caribbean, mixed race and South Asian people to become blood donors to reflect the ethnic diversity of patients
  • Female whole blood donors can give blood every 16 weeks, while male blood donors must wait 12 weeks between donations. Platelets can be donated every 2 weeks.