Fairer risk assessment to be implemented.
Changes to the questions asked of blood donors will ensure more gay and bisexual men are able to donate blood in the future.
Currently, men are not able to donate blood in the UK if they have had sex with another man in the past three months, in line with previous expert advice.
New recommendations, which the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) is satisfied will continue to ensure blood safety, mean men will no longer be automatically barred from giving blood if they have had sex with another man in the last three months. Instead, everyone will be given a more individual risk assessment, which will involve all potential donors being asked a few additional questions about their sexual behaviours.
Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) will ensure there is information available for donors to explain the reasons for the changes and to give reassurance that all information provided by donors is kept strictly in confidence.
The changes follow recommendations by the specialist steering group for Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) made up of leading medical and academic experts and LGBTI+ groups.
Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said:
“I welcome the recommendations of the FAIR group, which will enable a more individualised risk assessment approach to blood donor safety checks while continuing to ensure the safe supply of blood to patients.
“We are committed to equality and inclusion, and these changes will ensure a fairer and more up to date assessment of risk is applied to both men and women to identify whether donors may be at risk of a blood-borne virus infection.
“I am pleased to announce SNBTS expects to be able to implement these changes by summer 2021. They will be working to prepare their systems and staff for these changes and will also be working to raise awareness of the changes with existing and potential donors in advance.”
SNBTS Director Craig Spalding said:
“We are proud to have been involved in the work that has been undertaken to enable the Scottish Government to make an informed decision on reviewing and changing donor eligibility requirements.
“Donor eligibility based on personal risk assessments, rather than on broader demographic information such as sexuality, is a welcome change.
“We are grateful for all the donors of Scotland and are looking forward to welcoming a broader cross section of the population, in particular those men who have sex with men who will be able to donate blood under the new criteria.”
The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service will adopt the recommendations of the FAIR steering group with the details due to be published shortly by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).
The changes will mean that men who have sex with men (MSM) will not be automatically deferred if they have had sex with another man within the past three months.
More information about the FAIR Report will be made available on the NHS Blood and Transplant website.
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