Male Donation Frequency update FAQs
From February 2012, male blood donors can increase frequency of donating to a maximum of 4 times in 12 months at an interval of not less than 12 weeks. This means there is the potential for up to 100,000 extra donations to be collected every year under this new scheme.
Is this a trial?
No. This is a permanent change to the frequency of donation for male donors.
Why are we making the changes?
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 4 times in 12 months, as long as they wait 12 weeks between donations.
By giving men the opportunity to donate more often, it's thought that some of those 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 from male donors.
Why has the change been made for men and not women?
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 lifesaving transfusions.
Is it safe for men to donate more frequently?
Male donors who give a whole blood donation can safely donate four times a year, as long as
they wait twelve weeks between donations. This allows them to improve the lives of thousands more
people every year! Allowing male whole blood donors to donate more often is a great step forward in
meeting the 8,000 units needed every day to meet hospital demands.
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 4
times and women 3 times a year. Although other countries like 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 men are donating more often, does that mean that new donors won't be needed?
No. The increase in frequency for men donating will hopefully mean we have a more consistent
donor base and that the regularity of the same donors will make the blood supply safer. However, new
donors are always needed to replace those who stop donating for one reason or another.
Is there a danger of men becoming anaemic if they donate more often?
By increasing their donation frequency to 4 times in 12 months, it is unlikely that men would become
anaemic. There are ways to reduce this risk and increase iron intake by eating a healthy, balanced diet that
consists of iron rich food such as meat, green vegetables, dried fruit and pulses such as chick peas and lentils.
It's thought that vitamin C might also help absorb iron, so a glass of orange juice with a meal it may help to
improve levels of iron in the body.
What are the cost implications on the NHS for such a project?
All donors will be involved in a primary invitation mailing and will be sent literature explaining the
implementation of the changes. There will be initial marketing outlay and follow up with telephone calls for
However, by the static donor base of males donating more frequently, this makes the blood supply safe,
with more donations coming from the same sources, and the cost of testing each donation from existing
donors is not as much as testing new donors.
Will the donated blood be safe?
Donating blood and receiving blood is extremely safe, but there are some potential risks. We reduce
donor risk through a donor health check that spots any potential problems for the donor and patient. Together
with medical screening at session we can assess if it is safe for someone to donate that day.
We reduce patient risk through the donor health check and ensuring every donation is tested back in our labs
to pick up any dangerous infections. This is why it is vital that all donors answer the donor health check as
truthfully and thoroughly as possible.
What about the changes to the policy for men who have sex with men?
The permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men (MSM) from donating blood has changed
to a 12 month fixed period deferral from the latest relevant sexual contact following an evidence based review
by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).
Men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than 12 months ago will be able to donate, subject to meeting the
other donor selection criteria
. NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) have implemented the change at blood donation
sessions across England and North Wales. The Scottish and Welsh Blood Services have also implemented the changes.