The letter was published on World Blood Donor Day.
The FreedomToDonate campaign, alongside politicians from several parties, have published a letter to Health Minister Helen Whately, calling for restrictions on gay and bisexual men donating blood to be lifted.
The letter, published today on World Blood Donor Day, reads: “Dear Minister, today is World Blood Donor Day. A time to encourage more people to donate blood.
“As with so much of life during Covid-19, it feels different this year. Due to lockdown, for the first time, many people who were previously excluded from donating blood are now able to do so.
“However, there are still many thousands of men who have sex with men that are unable to donate. Whilst those men who may be able to safely donate continue to be excluded, the NHS Blood & Transplant (NHSBT) service has stated that the need for donations from young men are vital due to a serious gender imbalance in new donors.”
It adds: “Only 41% of new donors were men last year. We, the undersigned, believe that the time has come to review and update the restrictions on blood donor eligibility. It has been two years since NHSBT committed to exploring how more people can safely donate.
“We support the work of FreedomToDonate and other LGBT+ groups in advocating an individualised risk-based assessment model. On World Blood Donor Day, we believe that those who are willing to donate blood and could do so safely should be able to do so.”
The letter also comes as the United Kingdom approaches three months in lockdown, and as that is the current deferral period for gay and bi men to donate blood, it is possible that some may be able to do so for the first time in their lives.
Among those MPs who signed the letter include Conservatives Crispin Blunt, Damien Moore and William Wragg; Labour politicians Dame Diana Johnson and Kate Osborne; Liberal Democrat politicians Sir Ed Davey, Layla Moran and Jamie Stone; SNP politicians Hannah Bardell and Mhairi Black; and the Green Party’s sole MP, Caroline Lucas.
Caroline Nokes, the chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Select Committee also signed the letter, and said: “As NHS Blood and Transplant calls for thousands of new male donors to secure the blood supply, willing volunteers who could donate safely are being excluded because of a system which fails to treat people as individuals.
“FreedomToDonate are right to call for a blood donation policy which assesses people on their individual risk, rather than their sexuality. This way, those who want to donate and could do so safely would be able to and we could unlock the donors NHS Blood and Transplant needs.”
It should be noted that Caroline’s comments do not come as part of her capacity as the chair of the committee.
Ethan Spibey, the founder of FreedomToDonate, said: “World Blood Donor Day is different this year. Due to the lockdown tackling COVID-19 many gay/bi men have found they’ve become eligible to donate blood for the first time in their lives as they are in the 3-month deferral period.
“The fact that it’s taken a pandemic for gay/bi men to be able to donate blood is patently absurd and we’re pleased that so many politicians from all parties have acknowledged this and joined us in our call for an individualised risk-based assessment for blood donation.
“Such assessments would not only be fairer, unlocking the potential of thousands of new willing donors, but provide the Blood Service with the male donors they so desperately need, following their call earlier this year for 68,000 new male donors to maintain the blood supply.”
And Jamie Steel, a first-time donor because of the lockdown, added: “I was able to give blood for the first time in my life and actually it’s a bit overwhelming because I was involved in an accident where I could have needed a blood transfusion which really hammered home how important this is.
“I’m really glad I was finally able to give something back. But I find it hard to comprehend that it’s taken a worldwide health emergency for me to be able to do that. As things get back to normal I may not be able to donate again unless the guidelines are changed.”
Current restrictions on donating blood in the UK, mean that gay and bisexual men are not allowed to donate blood if they have had sex with another man within the past three months. Due to this policy, introduced in the 1980s, gay and bisexual men were unable to contribute blood plasma in coronavirus trials.