Annual safety report shows no impact on safety since more gay and bisexual man were able to donate blood
The annual blood safety report shows no impact on blood safety since a more individualised assessment allowed more gay and bisexual men to donate blood.
The ‘Safe Supplies 2022: monitoring safety in donors and recipients’ report is produced jointly by NHS Blood and Transplant and the UK Health Security Agency.
The data in the report, published this month, shows good compliance with the new guidelines, and no impact on UK blood safety.
The report found that during 2022, the residual risk of a blood donation with a newly acquired hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV infection being released into the blood supply remained at less than one in a million.
The report noted the number of infections in donors remained very low overall. And when a blood donation had markers of infection, the donors had good compliance with the FAIR questions on sexual behaviour.
A separate report, the Serious Hazards of Transfusion (SHOT) report, published earlier this year, found there were zero confirmed cases of transfusion transmitted hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV during 2022, similar to previous years.
What's changed in the process?
The blood donation changes were introduced in June 2021, on the recommendation of the For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) steering group, which studied the latest evidence and modelled risk.
Previously, men could not donate within three months of sexual contact with another man. Now, all donors are asked whether they have had anal sex with a new partner or more than one within the last three months, and questions about past bacterial STIs and drug use during sex.
The change has meant many gay, bi-men and men who have sex with men in a long-term relationship are now be able to donate blood at any time, as well as their partners.
This gender neutral, more individualised approach to assess blood donation safety was a landmark change and led the way for other blood establishments around the world to move to a more inclusive policy.
Dr Su Brailsford, Interim Clinical Director Microbiology and Public Health NHSBT and Chair of FAIR Steering Group said:
"These data are really encouraging, and I am pleased to be able to continue to give reassurance of safety for recipients across the UK. As always, we are grateful to the donors who help to save and improve recipient lives every year."
Katy Davison, Principal Scientist, NHSBT UKHSA Epidemiology Unit, said:
"We are able to show there are still very few infections in donors and transmissions to recipients are rare but we continue to keep a close eye on the impact of FAIR and gather evidence for future reviews of the policy."
If you’re the giving type, search 'donate blood' and register as a donor through our website
Press release notes
- These landmark FAIR changes were the outcome of work based on epidemiology (the unit) and behaviour and psychosocial evidence collected and analysed by Professor Eamonn Ferguson at the University of Nottingham. The FAIR project was led by NHSBT in collaboration with the UK blood services, the UKHSA, the University of Nottingham, LGBT+ charities and other stakeholder groups, including donors and patients.
- In 2022 approximately 950,000 whole blood donors made 1.8 million blood donations in the UK. All donations repeat reactive on screening were removed from the blood supply.