Gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood for the first time under new regulations.

However, the men must have not had any male partners for 12 months before donating to be considered acceptable donors.

“I am a staunch supporter of emancipation and equality of people, and at the same time responsible for the safe blood supply in the Netherlands,” Minister for Health Edith Schippers said in a statement announcing the change in policy.

Previously, gay men in the Netherlands were banned from donating blood regardless of how long it has been since they were sexually active.

Despite the change, Dutch LGBT rights groups have said they are disappointed that the changes did not go far enough.

“The new policy will remain unnecessarily discriminatory. This proposal provides too little, too late,” COC chair Tanja Ineke told AT5.

“The policy is only of practical importance for bisexual men in long-term monogamous relationships with a woman.”

She said that the policy will make no real change for the vast majority of sexually active gay men in Holland.

However, Schippers defended the new policy by pointing out that countries like Sweden, Finland and the United Kingdom maintained similar bans.

At present in England, Scotland and Wales, men who have sex with men (MSM) are banned from giving blood unless they abstain from sex for 12 months.

The ban also affects many women who are married to bisexual men – as the ban also prevents women who have slept with MSM from giving blood.

Until 2011, MSM were permanently banned from giving blood across the UK – but the system was changed in England, Scotland and Wales.

In Northern Ireland, MSM remain banned for life from giving blood, as the country’s DUP Health ministers have repeatedly ignored medical advice to keep a permanent ban in place.

Earlier this year it was announced that the number of people donating blood has fallen 40% in a decade, and the blood donation service could soon be in crisis. 

A growing number of MPs from across the political spectrum support a review of the ban.