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Warnings issued as UK blood donor numbers fall by 40%

Joseph McCormick June 5, 2015

Warnings have been issued that the number of blood donors in the UK has fallen by 40% in the past decade.

The issue was given by NHS Blood and Transplant, and noted that 120,000 fewer donors gave blood in 2014/15 compared to ten years before 2004/05.

An appeal was put out that the UK needs at least 204,000 new donors in order to keep blood stock at a safe level.

Assistant director for donor services and marketing Jon Latham, said: “We simply can’t ignore the fact that there has been a stark reduction in the number of new donors coming forward – a trend seen across the world.

“If we don’t attract new people across England and North Wales to donate it will put more pressure on the ability to provide the right type of blood the NHS needs for patients in the future.”

Despite the shortages, gay and bisexual men are still banned from donating blood if they have had sex in the previous twelve months.

In a number of European countries, MSM still face lifetime bans on blood donations under regulations introduced at the height of the AIDS crisis. In the UK, MSM currently face a 12-month deferral period.

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in April that it may be justified to indefinitely ban men from giving blood, while hearing the case of a French man who was refused the right to do so.

Though a lifetime ban has been lifted in England, Scotland and Wales, it is not yet abolished across the UK as the Northern Irish DUP refuses to lift the lifetime ban.

The Northern Irish Department of Health recently admitted it does not have any evidence to back up maintaining a lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood – but successive Democratic Unionist Party Health Ministers have refused to budge on the issue.

The British Government in January said it was considering whether to conduct a study into whether gay or bisexual men in monogamous, same-sex relationships should still have to wait 12 months after having sex to donate blood.

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, introduced a Private Member’s Bill last year calling for the gay blood ban to be removed.

On introducing the bill, Mr Fabricant said: “This still does not make sense.  It cannot be logical that a gay man practising safe sex with a single partner is banned from giving blood while a straight man having unsafe sex with multiple partners can. There is no logic to this and it is unnecessarily discriminatory.”

Mr Fabricant also this week tabled a question to the Department of Health asking: “What progress has been made in comparative research of the incidence of Hepatitis B and HIV infection in the MSM population and the MSM population in civil partnerships or same sex marriages with respect to the safety of blood donation; and if he will make a statement.”

The Missing Type campaign has already been launched by the NHS in order to attempt to increase donor numbers.

More: blood, blood ban, blood donor

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