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Landmark blood donation changes introduced in Wales

Shane Andrews MBE

More people may be eligible to donate blood or platelets today in Wales on World Blood Donor Day (Monday 14 June) following changes to the eligibility questions asked.

All donors, regardless of gender, will now be asked a new set of questions about sexual behaviours, focused mainly on the last three months, meaning that more people from LGBTQ+ communities will be eligible to donate.

The change has been introduced following recommendations made by the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group, which is a UK wide collaboration including representatives from all UK blood services, medical and scientific experts, LGBTQ+ groups, as well as a selection of patients and donors.

Carl (L) and Martin (R)

Married couple Carl and Martin from Newbridge are now eligible to donate following the criteria change.

Carl, a Quality Manager, said: “I am absolutely thrilled to be booked in to donate under these changes. I’m grateful for the efforts of campaigners, academics and clinicians who have made this happen. It is only fair in today’s society that everyone’s behaviours should be treated the same and not by the gender of their partner”.

Sales Manager Martin, added: “Today is a very special day for Carl and I. Together we can now make potentially lifesaving donations to help patients in need. My father had numerous blood transfusions and I am forever grateful to those donors for their support. My niece also received many blood transfusions during her treatment for leukaemia. She is now thankfully in full remission and I am absolutely delighted to potentially help someone like her recover from such a serious illness.”

Shane Andrews MBE, also booked to donate for the first time on Monday, June 14.

Shane said: “As Chair of Archway (Network Rail’s LGBT+ employee network), I have been heavily involved in improving diversity and inclusivity in the rail industry and I am delighted I am now part of these changes introduced today.

“Today is my first donation but it definitely won’t be my last. I intend to donate regularly now and feel honoured to commence my lifesaving journey on World Blood Donor Day but also during Pride month.”

Around 350 blood donations are needed each day by the Welsh Blood Service to maintain a steady supply of vital blood and blood components to 20 hospitals across the country.

Welsh Blood Service Director, Alan Prosser said: “We are thrilled to mark World Blood Donor Day by welcoming more people into our lifesaving team of blood and platelet donors.

“From today, more people can safely donate thanks to a new and fairer eligibility criteria.

“Whilst blood services are not responsible for setting the rules around donation, we are delighted that our work in collaboration with the FAIR steering group has led to the new regulations.

“If you have never given blood before, please consider supporting us by donating at your local donation clinic.”

Head of Nursing at Welsh Blood Service, Zoe Gibson said: “Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. All donations are tested for significant infections before they are sent to hospitals to maintain the safety of the blood supply chain.

“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. Our staff have been trained to make sure these more personal conversations are conducted with care and sensitivity and that accurate information is captured.

“We are asking that donors consider these new questions alongside existing health and travel questions when they book an appointment so that if they don’t meet the new criteria, they can re-schedule for a later date.”