Men can now donate blood four times in 12 months instead of three.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has reviewed practice from other countries where men are allowed to donate more frequently. This has shown to be safe for men, so we have decided to implement this change for our male donors to give four times in 12 months, as long as they wait 12 weeks between donations. It is hoped that some of those men who donate three times per year at the moment, will start to donate at, or close to, 12-week cycles — potentially collecting 100,000 extra units of blood every year.
Female donors do not have the same levels of stored iron as male donors for lots of reasons. This means that they cannot donate as often as their male counterparts as to do so could potentially put them at risk of anaemia, and NHSBT will never risk the health of donors.
Does this mean women are not really important as donors? Not at all. Every blood donor is important and plays a vital part in keeping the supply chain moving and supplying hospitals with a regular and safe supply of blood. Women are just as important as men when it comes to donating and we need donors from all blood groups to maintain a regular pattern of donation to provide patients in hospital with life-saving transfusions.
No. Increasing the regularity of donations from three to four times in 12 months is unlikely to affect iron levels in men. Ways to reduce this risk and increase iron intake include eating a healthy, balanced diet that consists of iron-rich food such as meat, green vegetables, dried fruit and pulses such as chickpeas and lentils. It is also proven that vitamin C helps to absorb iron, so drinking a glass of orange juice with meals may help to boost the body's iron levels. Coffee and tea can prevent iron absorption. It is recommended that these should not be consumed within two hours prior to and following your main iron-rich meal.
How does this change fit with other countries who have blood services? The change brings NHSBT in line with countries such as Portugal who also allow men to donate four times and women three times a year. Although other countries suchas Belgium, Denmark and Germany allow all donors to give more often, NHSBT remains at the cautious end of the spectrum in order to protect the health of the donor and maintain our excellent record in blood safety.
If you would like more information about why male donors can give every 12 weeks please visit: www.blood.co.uk or write to:Customer Services