The eligibility rules for donating blood and platelets are changing. From Monday 16th August the questions asked of everyone when they come to donate blood in Northern Ireland will change. The new eligibility rules will be more inclusive allowing more donors than ever before to donate while keeping blood just as safe.
Eligibility will now be based on individual circumstances surrounding health, travel and sexual behaviours. Donors will no longer be asked if they are a man who has had sex with another man, removing the element of the assessment that was previously focused on population-based risks.
Any individual who attends to give blood, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, will be asked if they have had sex. If so, they will be asked further questions about their sexual behaviours in the past three months. The process of giving blood will not change.
Under the changes, people can donate if they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months or if they have a new sexual partner with whom they have not had anal sex. It is essential that there is no known recent exposure to an STI or recent use of PrEP or PEP. This will mean more men who have sex with men will be eligible to donate.
Anyone who has had anal sex or chemsex (excluding the use of Viagra and cannabis) with a new partner or with multiple partners in the last three months will not be able to give blood right now but maybe eligible in the future.
Donors who have recently been treated for gonorrhoea will be deferred. Anyone who has ever received treatment for syphilis will not be able to give blood.
The changes follow an evidence-based review into individualised criteria by the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) UK wide steering group. FAIR has recommended a new donor selection system which is fairer whilst maintaining the UK’s status as one of the safest blood supplies in the world.
Data on the impact of the donor selection changes will be kept under review and assessed 12 months after their implementation to determine if any changes are needed. Feedback from donors, LGBT+ individuals, patients and representatives will be a key consideration in this review.
John O’Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project alongside Karin Jackson, CEO, Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service and Robin Swann MLA, Minister of Health
John O’Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project said:
“We have been campaigning on this issue for over 10 years. We welcome the implementation of the Fair Report and the new rules surrounding blood donations. These changes mean a large number of people who have never been able to donate blood will be eligible to do so. We would like to thank the Health Minister, Robin Swann, for ensuring that decisions related to blood donations are based wholly on the best available medical evidence and that policies are implemented on a UK wide basis. Donating blood is not a right, but a civic responsibility on all of us who are eligible to do so. The focus of The Rainbow Project will now turn to encourage all those people who are now eligible to register as blood donors. We would like to thank the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service and all the staff for their hard work in implementing the new rules and encourage every member of our community who are in a position to do so to register now to donate blood.
Robin Swann, Health Minister for Northern Ireland said:
“This change to blood donation is based on the latest evidence and will enable some people previously excluded from donating blood, to have the opportunity to help save lives. I recognise the hard work by the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service in implementing these changes, and I would encourage all those now eligible to register as donors”
Karin Jackson, Chief Executive at the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service said,
“I am delighted that we have been able to introduce these significant changes to the blood donation criteria over the summer, as planned. I would like to thank John O’Doherty and The Rainbow Project for their support as well as the NIBTS staff who have worked tirelessly to implement the FAIR project recommendations”.
These changes come at a time when demand for blood is increasing. This year, as Life and Health and Social Care start to return to normal, patients need blood donors more than ever.
If you would like to find out more about donating blood, please register to become a blood donor or book an appointment to donate by visiting www.nibts.org; texting “BLOOD” to 60081 or simply call Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service a call on 08085 534 653.
If you have been deferred because of previous guidelines and are unsure if you can now donate, please their our donor eligibility quiz on our website or give us a call on 08085 534 653.