All blood and platelet donors in Wales and the UK will be asked new questions to check their eligibility to donate from 14 June, World Blood Donor Day.
As part of a four-nations agreement, the new FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) eligibility rules will allow more people to donate, while keeping the blood supply chain just as safe. The process of giving blood will not change.
All donors, regardless of gender, will be asked a new set of standard questions about sexual behaviours, focused mainly on the last three months, meaning that more people from LGBTQ+ communities will be eligible to donate.
These eligibility questions will be based on an individualised risk assessment rather than on a measure of risk assigned to a group or population. Deferrals will be based on behaviours evidenced to be at a higher risk of acquiring a sexual infection that can be transmitted through blood.
Male donors will no longer be asked if they have had sex with another man. Instead, any individual who attends to give blood, regardless of gender, will be asked about recent sexual behaviours.
On 14 December 2020, the Welsh Government Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:
“This announcement will put an end to the discrimination many people in the LGBT+ community have faced. So many people have worked so hard to get us to this position. I’m very grateful to them and delighted the Welsh Government has been able to see through this long-standing ambition.”
Zoe Gibson, Head of Nursing at Welsh Blood Service, said:
“Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. This change is about switching around the way we assess risks related to acquiring a sexual infection, in a way that is tailored to the individual.
“All donations are screened for evidence of significant infections before they are sent to hospitals. Donation testing and donor selection go hand in hand to maintain the safety of the blood supply.
“All donors will now be asked about recent sexual behaviours which might have increased their risk of acquiring an infection. This means that some donors might not be eligible on the day, but may be eligible to donate in the future.
“Our priority is to make sure that donors can answer the pre-donation questions in a setting that makes them feel comfortable and safe. Staff are receiving training to make sure these more personal conversations are conducted with care and sensitivity, and that accurate information is captured.
“We are notifying donors of the changes, so that they can consider the new questions before their appointment, and are able to re-schedule if they do not meet the changed criteria to give blood right now. We want blood donation to continue to be a positive experience.
“The Welsh Blood Service is looking forward to welcoming new donors as we move forward with these changes.”
Arron Bevan-John and Alexander Bryant-Evans, of Blood Equality Wales, said:
“It is great to see these changes coming into force, especially after so many people in the LGBT+ community have fought and campaigned for changes to the rules around blood donation for such a long time.
“These changes are welcomed, but there is still a great deal of work to do in achieving absolute equality in the blood donation space. We will continue to work with partners such as the Welsh Blood Service so that one day everybody who can safely donate blood is able to.”
Davinia Green, Director of Stonewall Cymru, said:
“We welcome the changes to the blood donations rules, which will make it easier for gay and bi men to donate blood in Wales. This represents an important first step towards a donation selection policy entirely based on an individualised assessment of risk.
“We look forward to continuing our work with Public Health Wales and the Welsh Blood Service to build on this progress and ensure that more LGBT+ people can donate blood safely in the future.”
For further information regarding this announcement please click here.