Today the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Donation announced it will launch a parliamentary inquiry into blood donation. The APPG will look at the guidelines currently in place and hear evidence on whether these reflect today’s scientific and technological advances.
Currently, men who have had sex with another man in the last 12 months are not allowed to donate blood.
In light of the recognised shortage of blood, the APPG will take evidence and compile a report on how to ensure as much safe blood as possible is donated. Currently just 4 per cent of people in the UK are donors.
In November 2015, health minister Jane Ellison MP announced that the Department of Health would review the policy this year. However, the review will be conducted behind closed doors. The APPG on Blood Donation was set up to enable public consultation on the issue and inform a new policy which will ensure people who are able to safely donate blood can do so.
The current ban applies to sexual orientation rather than to sexual activity. A gay man who practices safe sex with one partner cannot donate blood whereas a heterosexual person who has unsafe sex with a multitude of partners can.
The APPG is supported in its work by the group FreedomToDonate who are calling for an updated, evidence-based policy. A spokesman for the group said, “1 in 4 of us will need blood at some time in our life. Everyday over 6000 blood transfusions take place but over the last 10 years there has been a 40% drop in the number of donors. We want to increase this number, and reforming these restrictions is the start.
“The Department of Health recently announced that blood has actually become safer since the ban on gay men donating blood was lifted. Tests carried out on every blood donation in England, Scotland and Wales since the ban was lifted show that there are fewer infections. This shows that many people are needlessly banned from donating.”
The group have also created a series of videos, including one people who could donate if the rules were to be reformed (here) and one containing factual information from the APPG and the campaign on today’s announcement (here).
Stewart McDonald MP, who chairs the APPG on Blood Donation, said:
“The APPG will look at how we can increase the blood stock while always maintaining its safety and integrity. There is a body of evidence which shows the 12-month deferral period for MSM donating blood could be reduced to 3 months and we want to explore all restrictions on donation to ensure as many people as possible are able to do this life-saving act. We’re looking forward to taking evidence later this year.”
FreedomToDonate Founder, Ethan Spibey said:
“I set up this campaign after my grandfather’s life was saved by someone donating blood. The very least I could do is to repay that person by donating mine to help save someone else’s loved one. But, like many people who could donate if it were not for these outdate rules, I am not allowed. And so I had to do something to help bring the guidelines up to date so that more people can make this life saving, altruistic gesture.”
Dr Christian Jessen said:
"The case for reviewing the current guidelines into who can safely donate blood is scientifically irrefutable. 5 years since the last review, our understanding of blood borne viruses has come a long way, and this knowledge must be reflected in the policy so that all those who can safely donate are able to, and I know there are many who want to. I endorse unreservedly the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Donation and the FreedomToDonate campaign in calling for a policy which means that those who are currently unreasonably restricted from donating are able to safely do so. The Inquiry launched today is encouraging, and a huge step in the right direction for a blood donation policy which reflect medical advancements since 2011 and allows people the opportunity to make an altruistic and potentially life-saving gesture of safely donating blood."
Notes to editors