Patients who have received transfusions are to be banned from donating blood themselves amid concerns over vCJD, it was announced today.

Health Secretary John Reid told MPs experts had advised a ban on blood donation on anyone who has received a transfusion since January 1980.

Dr Reid said the move would "inevitably lead to a reduction in the supply of blood available for transfusions" as about 52,000 donors would be excluded.

The move comes after the Government announced in December that a patient died of the disease, the human version of BSE, after receiving blood years earlier from a donor who contracted vCJD.

The case was the first of its kind recorded in the world and prompted concern from doctors, MPs and the public.

Karen Jennings, head of health at health workers' union Unison, said the ban was "a sensible precautionary measure" which would boost public confidence in the safety of blood supplies.

"In order to secure the long term supply of blood we need urgent action to encourage more people to make donations.

"Employers must do their bit and act responsibly, by allowing workers the flexibility and time off to enable them to give blood conveniently and easily.

"Many people who have had transfusions go on to give blood as a way of thanking the NHS, for them this announcement will come as a real shock.

"Although any risk is very small, they should be offered help, information and counselling to come to terms with the situation," she said.