News

Fairer assessment for blood donors

Published: 14 Jun 2021 00:01

Eligibility for donation updated.

Changes to the questions people are asked before they are accepted as blood donors come into effect today – meaning all potential donors are treated the same.  

The changes, implemented on World Blood Donor Day, will allow more men who have sex with men, and people whose partners have previously lived in areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, to give blood if they meet the other blood donation criteria.

Questions about recent sexual activity will be the same for all donors, regardless of their sexuality.

The changes follow recommendations by the specialist research group For Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR), made up of leading medical and academic experts and LGBTI+ groups. The new questions will mean that people will still be unable to donate where there is evidence of recent sexual activity that could lead to a higher risk of a donor having blood-borne virus infection.

Public Health Minister Maree Todd said:

“I welcome the changes being made today and am grateful to everyone who currently gives blood and everyone who wants to give blood in future. Your support is vital to save lives and ensure our NHS has enough blood components to meet the needs of all those who will need a blood transfusion.

“Previous rules meant that automatic time bars were in place for a number of people, including men who have sex with men. It’s clear that such a blanket approach was simply not fair – not least to gay and bisexual men in committed relationships.

“There are also some people who have partners who previously lived in sub-Saharan Africa, but have been in the UK for a long time. These changes to the questions will allow more people in these groups to donate, and continue to ensure the blood supplied to our hospitals is safe.”

Development Manager for the Equality Network Scott Cuthbertson said:

“I’ve been campaigning on the issue of blood donation for gay and bisexual men for over 15 years, and I welcome the support of Scottish Ministers in approving this change.

“For me this was never about a right to give, but the fact that there were many gay and bisexual men that could do so safely.

“I’m pleased the evidence, assessed by experts, has concluded that to be true, and that many thousands of gay and bisexual men will be able to donate their blood and help save lives.

“Today, during Pride Month, I’m proud to donate my blood for the first time alongside many other gay and bisexual men across the UK as the rules are changed to be fairer for all.”

Background 

Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS), the specialist provider of safe high quality blood services in Scotland, will provide information available to explain the reasons for the changes and to give reassurance that all information provided by donors is kept strictly in confidence. 

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service had adopted the recommendations of the FAIR steering group.

The changes will mean that men who have sex with men (MSM) will no longer be automatically deferred from donating if they have had sex with another man within the past three months, and people will no longer be asked whether their partner has previously lived in areas where there is a higher prevalence of HIV, including sub-Saharan Africa.

More information about the FAIR Report and the new questions is available on the SNBTS website.