Changing Blood Donation policies

Bangor University staff and students have contributed to changing policies for Blood Donations.

Researchers at the School of Health Studies have welcomed changes to the UK blood donor selection policy, from being one based on sexuality to one based on individual sexual behaviour.

Prof Jane Noyes and colleagues at the School of Health Sciences contributed to the (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) project, which collated the evidence to change the UK blood donor selection policy.  FAIR carried out a review to understand the highest risk sexual behaviours for acquiring blood-borne sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They also identified methods for asking donors about their sexual behaviour in a gender-neutral way.

The team at Bangor University were responsible for conducting a survey with the entire staff and student body, which provided important information to underpin the development of a blood donation assessment questionnaire concerning sexual behaviour in relation to blood donation, and the recommendations to change policies for blood donation for gay and bisexual men.

The FAIR steering group has recently concluded that donors who have had the same sexual partner in the last three months and who don’t have an STI should be eligible to donate.

As a result of the review, and ministerial approval, men who have sex with men in a long-term relationship will be able to donate blood in a change to be implemented across the UK from Summer 2021.

The move sees the UK become one of the first countries in the world to adopt a more individualised risk-based approach to donor selection criteria.

Prof Jane Noyes, who led the Bangor contribution commented:

“The study that we conducted at Bangor University has helped bring about a critically important change in policy to enable more sexually active gay and bisexual men to give blood in the UK.  The change means a fairer blood donation system whist also ensuring safety.  Based on the findings of the research conducted at Bangor University with staff and students, changes will now be made to the donor health check questionnaire to introduce questions to assess potential donors against high risk behaviours. Many organisations around the world will be looking to see the impact and may very well follow suit.”

The recommendations were made by the Advisory Committee for the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO in response to changes proposed by the FAIR steering group.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“This landmark change to blood donation is safe and it will allow many more people, who have previously been excluded by donor selection criteria, to take the opportunity to help save lives. This is a positive step and recognises individuals for the actions they take, rather than their sexual preference.

Minister for Blood Donation Lord Bethell said:

“By closely examining the latest evidence relating to blood donation and sexual behaviour, we have been able to bring forward more inclusive policy to allow people to safely donate blood to save lives.

I am grateful to the members of the FAIR steering group, including LGBT charities, for the work they have done over the last 18 months to enable us to bring this policy, which many have called for, to fruition.”

Publication date: 17 December 2020