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14 June 2021

World Blood Donor Day marks a new era for blood donation in Scotland

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The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) is marking World Blood Donor Day today (Monday June 14) by introducing new, fairer, ways of assessing who can give blood.

The changes, which come into effect across England and Wales as well as Scotland, mean that UK blood services will now assess donor eligibility on a person-by-person basis instead of applying across-the-board restrictions. From today, SNBTS will ask all donors the same questions about their recent sexual activity to ensure blood safety. This will allow previously excluded potential donors (including low-risk sexually active gay men) to give blood.

 

Dr Lorna McLintock, SNBTS Consultant in Donor Medicine, says:

The change is fairer and more inclusive, and allows us to undertake more individualised assessment of donor eligibility while maintaining blood safety. Dr Lorna McLintock

'This is welcome news and comes as the result of extensive review by a panel of experts. The change is fairer and more inclusive, and allows us to undertake more individualised assessment of donor eligibility while maintaining blood safety.

These changes to the way UK blood services assess the risk of transfusion transmitted infections incorporate the key recommendations of the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) Report. The recommendations were designed to recognise that by combining donor questions with state of the art testing we can keep our blood supply as safe as possible.'

Craig Spalding, SNBTS Director, says:

'These changes follow an evidence-based review by the UK-wide FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group. FAIR was set up at the request of the Department of Health and Social Care. The steering group included representatives from the four UK blood services, LGBT+ groups, medical and scientific experts, and patient and donor representatives. FAIR concluded that the new donor selection system will maintain the UK’s status as having one of the safest blood supplies in the world. The FAIR recommendations were designed by epidemiology, sexual health and Infectious disease experts. The recommendations were accepted in full by the Scottish and UK governments in December 2020. I am proud to implement these changes in SNBTS, and I would like to extend my thanks to all current and future donors in Scotland.'

Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager for the Equality Network, says:

'I’ve been campaigning on the issue of blood donation for gay and bisexual men for over 15 years, and 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 which we long felt to be unnecessarily exclusionary have been replaced with a person-by-person risk assessment.'

Alastair Rose, Waverley Care SX Manager, says:

'We are delighted that gay and bisexual men will no longer face discrimination in relation to their sexuality when wishing to give blood. This is a major step forward towards a fairer society and many gay and bisexual men will welcome the opportunity to contribute to this live saving service. We have fought long and hard as a population to be able to give blood when safe to do so, and we have appreciated the collaborative approach from the SNBTS to ensuring our community will now be treated equally.'

Giving blood on World Blood Donor Day

Two people who are impacted by the change are married couple, Chartered Accountant Steven Smillie (35) and Veterinary Surgeon Tyler McNeil (35) from Edinburgh.

Steven says: 'I am looking forward to giving blood for the first time in 17 years. It is right in a fair and equal society that the ability to donate blood should based on an individual’s behaviours and not the gender of their partner. I'm grateful for the efforts of campaigners, academics and clinicians who have enabled this change'.

Tyler says: 'I am aware from my work with animals how donated blood can save lives and I am glad that the changes in the blood donation criteria will enable me to donate for the first time in my life.'

The FAIR changes will allow previously excluded potential donors (including low-risk sexually active gay men) to give blood.

James Perrie, from Falkirk, will give his first donation in Glasgow Donor Centre. James says:

'As a gay man working for the SNBTS, I have always felt sad that I was unable to take part in blood donation due to my sexual orientation, especially when you hear all the good that the donation can do. Now, with FAIR, I feel much more included as an individual and love the fact that I am not only donating blood on World Blood Donor Day but also during Pride month.'

SNBTS are also issuing a call for more people to come forward to volunteer as blood donors.  SNBTS has set a target of welcoming 500 new blood donors a week over the summer months.

Deborah McNaughton, SNBTS Associate Director for Donor and Transport, says:

'During the Covid-19 pandemic we had an excellent response from blood and platelet donors. Blood donors may have faced changes to where they donate, as we adjusted capacity for social distancing. Or they may have responded to our request for their blood group at short notice as hospital demand became a bit more unpredictable. I would like to extend my great thanks to everyone who played their part.

'As NHS Scotland continues to remobilise, we do need donors to keep coming forward. 24% of blood goes to support surgical procedures, and we are aware hospitals are currently very busy with elective surgery. Please continue to support these patients. New donors are particularly welcome, as we aim to increase the number of active donors in Scotland. During the summer period, we need donors with blood groups O and A in particular to keep coming forward. Book your appointment now on scotblood.co.uk'. 

Current blood stock levels across Scotland Saturday 24 July

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

Learn more about blood types