Transcript of a letter from Geraldine Alexander NIPSA Assistant Secretary to the then Northern Ireland Executive Health Minister, Mr Jim Wells MLA dated 2nd December 2014.

Dear Minister

I am writing on behalf of our LGB&T Group to express our concern at the ongoing delay in lifting the current lifetime ban on blood donations by MSM (men who have sex with men) individuals resident in Northern Ireland.

We are aware that European Directive 2004/33/EEC, as regards technical requirements for blood and blood components, sets out the permanent deferral criteria for donors and refers to persons whose sexual behaviour puts them at high risk of acquiring severe infectious diseases that can be transmitted by blood.

We also note that, following an evidence based review in May 2011, the UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) recommended the lifting of the lifetime ban on blood donation by gay and bisexual men (men who have sex with men). The recommendation was accepted by health authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. The permanent exclusion of men who have had sex with men from donating blood was changed to a 12 month fixed period deferral from the latest relevant sexual contact.

We welcome the recent decision of the High Court that has ruled that the blood ban in Northern Ireland is ‘irrational’ following a consideration of a judicial review application from individuals seeking leave to challenge your predecessor, Mr Poots’, decision in relation to the blood ban. Despite this decision we are concerned to learn that in a statement to the Assembly Mr Poots stood firmly behind his decision to retain the lifetime ban in Northern Ireland.

NIPSA is of the view that:

  1. a ban on blood donations from any group, including LGB individuals, must be based on clear scientific evidence and the extent and duration of the ban must be appropriate to the level of risk identified;
  2. the current position of a lifetime ban on blood donations by MSM (men who have sex with men) individuals resident in Northern Ireland is inconsistent with the Department’s practice of accepting donated blood from Great Britain, where MSM individuals are permitted to donate blood after a 12 month deferral; and
  3. we believe to continue with a legal challenge against the removing of the lifetime ban, which has already amounted to £37,112, is a misuse of public money especially at a time of austerity with severe cuts to jobs and public services.

We would therefore call upon the Executive to uphold the rule of law in this regard and to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

Thank you for considering this letter and I look forward to receiving a favourable response.

Yours sincerely

Geraldine Alexander

Assistant Secretary