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For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) for Blood Donation. FAIR Study

For the Assessment of Individualised Risk (FAIR) for Blood Donation. FAIR Study

CHALLENGE 

The UK blood donor selection policy is currently one based on sexuality.  New research was needed to design new screening tools in order to change the policy to one based on sexual behaviour and fairer for everybody.   

RESEARCH

FAIR is a collaboration of UK blood services, Public Health England, University of Nottingham, University of Stirling, Bangor University and LGBT+ charities and NHSBT.

Led by Prof Eamonn Ferguson at Nottingham University a team of researchers over two years conducted an evidence-based review to assess if sexual behaviours could be an effective measure of assessing individual risk of sexually transmitted infection, which could be passed on through blood transfusions.  Researchers from the Wales Kidney Research Unit were responsible for conducting a survey with the entire staff and student body at Bangor University to identify the best combination of a question or group of questions to screen all potential blood donors based on their individual behaviours rather than their sexuality.   Similar surveys were carried in Nottingham and Stirling University.  We also supported focus groups with donor staff, non-donors. Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and patients.   The results of the surveys and focus groups were analysed alongside epidemiological data.

RESULTS

The main findings from FAIR’s evidence review found that people with multiple partners or who have chemsex are the most likely to have blood-borne sexual infections; a strong link between HIV and a history of syphilis or gonorrhoea; and receiving anal sex was identified as the easiest way to acquire a sexual infection from a partner.

Outcomes underpinned the develop of a new of a blood donation assessment questionnaire concerning sexual behaviour in relation to blood donation, and the recommendations to change policies for blood donation for gay and bisexual men.

IMPACT 

A new individual based policy based on sexual behaviour to screen blood donors has been given ministerial approval and the announcement to that UK policy had changed was released on Monday 14th December 2020.  The UK is the first service to make this change and many around the world will be looking to see the impact and may very well follow suit.  The change means a fairer blood donation system whilst also ensuring safety.  The changes to the donor health check questionnaire will be implemented in practice in summer 2021.

To read more about this important research follow these links to partners pages and press releases. 

Link to Bangor Press Release

https://www.bangor.ac.uk/news/changing-blood-donation-policies

Link to the main press release:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/landmark-change-to-blood-donation-criteria

Link to the FAIR outcome:

https://www.blood.co.uk/news-and-campaigns/news-and-statements/fair-steering-group/

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