Historic Revision to Blood Donation Eligibility Criteria

Pavankumar Kamat

June 15, 2021

Historic changes to blood donation eligibility criteria in England, Scotland, and Wales were implemented on World Blood Donor Day (14 June), and enable more men who have sex with men (MSM) to donate blood, platelets, and plasma.

Under the revised eligibility rules, donors will no longer be asked if they are MSM, thereby ending the assessment based on the previous population-based risks.

Instead, any individual, irrespective of gender, intending to donate blood will be only asked whether they are sexually active and, if so, regarding their recent sexual behaviours. Anyone who has had sexual activity with the same partner for the last 3 months will be eligible as a blood donor.

Any individual who has engaged in anal sex with a new partner or with multiple partners in the last 3 months will not be eligible at the moment but may become eligible in the future. Individuals recently treated for gonorrhoea will be deferred for blood donation. Individuals who have been treated for syphilis at any point will be unable to donate.

Revisions to the eligibility rules were made on the basis of an evidence-based review by NHS Blood and Transplant’s FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group. FAIR believes that the new donor selection system is not only fairer but also ensures the safety of blood supplies.

Ella Poppitt, Chief Nurse for Blood Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. This change is about switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual. Our priority is to make sure that donors are able to answer the pre-donation questions in a setting that makes them feel comfortable and safe and donation is something that continues to make people feel amazing.”

The impact of the new changes will be kept under review and assessed 12 months later to determine if changes are required. The review will also incorporate crucial feedback from donors, LGBT+ individuals, patients and representatives.

Complete recommendations by FAIR are available here.

This article originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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