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23 July 2017

Changes to donor deferral criteria will allow more people the opportunity to give blood


The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) has accepted recommended changes to the rules on blood donation in Scotland.

The Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), which advises UK ministers and health departments, announced the recommendations following a review of blood donor criteria and risk assessment of certain behaviours.

Amongst the recommendations is a shortened deferral period for men who have had sex with another man (1); commercial sex workers; and people who have sex with partners who are classed as high risk (2). In these cases, as long as all other donation criteria is met, the individuals will be able to donate after three months have passed since the last sexual activity.

The changes announced mean that the rules are consistent for all groups that are deferred due to sexual behaviours. These will be implemented in Scotland during November 2017. Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service

Speaking after the announcement of the changes, Moira Carter, Associate Director of Donor Services and Transport for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) said:

"We welcome the review by SaBTO and the recommendations; the updates for donor eligibility will allow more people the opportunity to give blood.

"The changes take into account the latest available medical and scientific evidence about the risk of acquiring infections that can be passed on in blood, along with evidence supporting the reliability of the blood screening tests we use." 

SNBTS is working towards implementing the revised deferral criteria, ensuring that staff who work with blood donors receive the relevant guidance and training needed to introduce the changes at donor sessions. It is also necessary to modify the Service’s IT system and update the donor health check forms as well as information for donors in leaflets and online.

Moira Carter added:

"Deferral criteria in relation to sexual risk are often poorly understood and perceived to be based on sexual orientation. It’s very important that it is recognised that these are based on the best available evidence at the time and robust risk assessment.

"We empathise with the strength of feeling about blood donation deferrals amongst the LGBT+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender plus) community, and have agreed with the Scottish Government that we will explore the feasibility of paired assessments with couples and are also looking to carry out some longer term research on individual risk assessment.

"We have one of the safest blood supplies in the world and the announced updates to criteria will not affect the safety of blood supply in Scotland. Any of us may require a blood transfusion in the future and so it’s in all our interests to ensure that we keep blood as safe as possible for patients."

The changes announced mean that the rules are consistent for all groups that are deferred due to sexual behaviours. These will be implemented in Scotland during November 2017.

Changes are also proposed for people who have undergone acupuncture, piercing and tattooing and endoscopy, and for those with a history of non-prescribed injecting drug use (3). These will have to be implemented at a later date as they will require changes in UK legislation, in addition to a derogation from or amendments to current EU legislation.


(1) This refers to men who have oral or anal sex with men

(2) High risk partners refers to groups of people known to have a higher risk of having an infection which could be passed on during sex

(3) These include body building and image enhancing drugs

  • SNBTS is committed to exploring ways in which a more personalised risk assessment could be introduced, to allow more people to donate blood without impacting on blood safety. This research will be undertaken in collaboration with the other UK blood services and involve key stakeholders.
  • There are currently 118,677 active blood donors in Scotland. An active blood donor is defined as a person who has attended a session within the last 12 months.
  • SNBTS is a strategic business unit of NHS National Services Scotland (NSS), accountable to the Scottish Government.
  • Information on current blood stocks, donation sessions and current donor criteria are available on
  • For more information on SaBTO, visit their website
  • To contact SNBTS directly, fill in our online contact form

Current blood stock levels across Scotland Sunday 16 June

We aim to retain 6 days of stocks at any time in order to meet the requirements of patients in Scotland.

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