Letter: Why blood donor rules vary

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Sir: Mr Jarrett (letter, 24 December) raises an important point concerning guidelines over who can and cannot donate blood. In the past these rules have tended to relate to medical history, but increasingly the National Blood Service (NBS) has had to take into account changes in lifestyle.

Long-haul travel overseas can mean that some of our regular donors visit areas where malaria is endemic; according to the World Health Organisation, one such country is the Dominican Republic. In the absence of any diagnostic test, the current rule is that anyone visiting such an area must wait for one year and have no signs of malaria before being able to donate again.

At the North London Centre, which includes the West End Donor Clinic referred to by Mr Jarrett, the NBS is investigating a potential diagnostic test for malaria. This means that many donors who previously would have had to wait for a year are now able to donate at sessions managed through North London. Once all the information from this pilot is complete, the NBS will consider the wider use of the diagnostic test at other blood centres.

This initiative is just one example of how the NBS is adapting continually to meet the changing pattern of blood donation in England. As hospitals continue to use increasing amounts of blood every year, the service does meet the demand, but there will always be a need for more - particularly at holiday times such as Christmas. To become a donor, people should contact their local blood centre or ring 0345-711711.

Dr MARY BRENNAN

Director of Donor Services & Public Relations,

London and South East Zone of the National Blood Service

London NW9

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