The UK blood services (which includes the Welsh Blood Service), Public Health England, Nottingham University and a range of stakeholders including LGBT+ groups are working together in the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group.
The aim of the FAIR steering group is to explore if a more individualised risk assessment approach to blood donor selection policy is possible whilst ensuring the safe supply of blood to patients.
If the evidence shows that a more individualised blood donation risk assessment can be safely and practically introduced, it could mean that some people who are currently deferred for three months due to sexual-related risk, such as some men who have sex with men (MSM), could donate*.
Our membership includes representatives from the four UK blood services (NHS Blood and Transplant, Scotblood, the Welsh Blood Service and the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service), Public Health England, Nottingham University, the National Aids Trust (NAT), Stonewall, Freedom to Donate, Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), and includes experts in epidemiology, virology and psychology and other key stakeholders.
The Government sets blood donation guidelines based on advice from a Department of Health and Social Care expert committee: The Standing Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO). In 2017, the UK* introduced a world-leading blood donation policy reducing the deferral for MSM, as well as other some other groups, to three months since last sexual contact. In many parts of the world the deferral for MSM is 12 months or longer and in some areas MSM are asked not to donate at all.
We appreciate that any deferral is disappointing if you want to save lives by giving blood. We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to donate whilst continuing to ensure the safety of patients. We are taking a collaborative and evidence-based approach to assess a more individualised risk assessment and we hope to report our research findings towards the end of 2020.
*There is a 12-month deferral in Northern Ireland for sex-related risk, including MSM. Any changes to this requires Health Minister approval.