More gay and bisexual men will be allowed to donate blood, platelets and plasma after “historic” new rules came into effect.
The new eligibility rules came into force today on World Blood Donor Day and mean that donors in England, Scotland and Wales will no longer be asked if they are a man who has had sex with another man, NHS Blood and Transplant said.
Instead, any individual who attends to give blood regardless of gender will be asked if they have had sex and, if so, about recent sexual behaviours.
Anyone who has had the same sexual partner for the last three months will be eligible to donate, meaning more gay and bisexual men will be able to donate blood, platelets and plasma while keeping blood just as safe, NHS Blood and Transplant said.
The organisation’s chief nurse for blood donation, Ella Poppitt, said: “Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do.
“This change is about switching around how we assess the risk of exposure to a sexual infection, so it is more tailored to the individual.
“We screen all donations for evidence of significant infections, which goes hand-in-hand with donor selection to maintain the safety of blood sent to hospitals.
“All donors will now be asked about sexual behaviours which might have increased their risk of infection, particularly recently acquired infections. This means some donors might not be eligible on the day but may be in the future.”
The changes to the donor safety check form will affect blood, plasma and platelet donors but the process of giving blood will not change.
NHS Blood and Transplant said eligibility will be based on individual circumstances surrounding health, travel and sexual behaviours shown to be at a higher risk of sexual infection.
Under the changes people can donate if they have had the same sexual partner for the last three months, or if they have a new sexual partner with whom they have not had anal sex and there is no known recent exposure to a sexually transmitted infection (STI) or recent use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).
Anyone who has had anal sex with a new partner or with multiple partners in the last three months will be not be able to give blood but may be eligible in the future.
The changes were welcomed by charities including the National Aids Trust, Stonewall and Terrence Higgins Trust.
However, the Terrence Higgins Trust said the government had kept a “discriminatory restriction” in England which will affect black communities’ ability to give blood.
The restriction relates to a three-month deferral period for anyone who has a “partner who has, or you think may have been, sexually active in parts of the world where HIV/Aids is very common” and references “most countries in Africa”, the charity added.
To become a blood donor, register and book an appointment by calling 0300 123 2323, downloading the GiveBloodNHS app, or visiting www.blood.co.uk.
Frank Skinner breaks down in tears on live radio as he reveals friend Gareth Richards is fighting for his life after crash
Frank Skinner broke down in tears live on his radio show as he told listeners that his former co-host Gareth Richards is fighting for his life after a crash.
The comedian struggled for words as he revealed that his friend was in a “very big road accident” this week and was fighting for his life.
Mr Richards is believed to have been involved in a serious collision on the M25 near Heathrow Airport on 27 March.
The crash between a lorry and two cars happened on the motorway between Junctions 14 and 15, Surrey Live reported.
A man was cut free from his vehicle by firefighters before being treated by the London Ambulance Service for head and chest injuries. The Met Police previously said he was in a “life-threatening” condition.
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‘He’s a fantastic bloke’
During the closing moments of his show on Absolute Radio on Saturday, Mr Skinner recalled how Mr Richards had co-hosted with him and Emily Dean when the show first started out.
Breaking down in tears, he continued: “And Gareth was in a very big road accident this week and… it’s not looking great for Gareth.
“He’s in hospital and he’s fighting but it’s not looking great and I didn’t want to do this show – we didn’t want to do this show without mentioning him…”
He added: “He’s a fantastic bloke and I dunno if any of you do pray, if you do give one for Gareth this week.”
Man, 61, arrested on suspicion of murder after woman’s body found in marina in Reading
A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a woman’s body was found in a marina in Reading, Thames Valley Police have said.
Police were called just after 10.30am on Saturday to reports of a body in the water at the Thames and Kennet Marina in Caversham.
Officers recovered the body from the marina and the suspect, 61, was arrested. He remains in police custody.
The woman’s next of kin have been informed, the force said.
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Detective Inspector Richard Pickering said: “We are in the very early stages of this investigation, and although we have made an arrest, I would urge the public not to speculate on the circumstances of the woman’s death, which is being treated as unexplained at this time.
“There is currently a scene-watch in place at the location and will be in place for some time while our investigation continues.
“Although the death is being treated as unexplained, we do not believe there to be any danger to the local community, and we are conducting a full and thorough investigation to ascertain the full circumstances of this tragic incident.”
Port of Dover delays: Passengers stranded for hours as ‘critical incident’ declared
Passengers have told of their ordeal after being stranded for hours at the Port of Dover as delays triggered a “critical incident”.
One woman told Sky News she had been waiting on a bus for “12 hours already”, while concerned parents reported on Twitter that their children had been stranded for longer than that, delaying the start of their school trips.
The port said coach processing times inside the terminal are “improving” and are now between one to hours, with one hour waits for cars.
In a statement, it blamed “lengthy French border processes” and the “sheer volume” of traffic on the first day of the school Easter holidays.
Port chief executive Doug Bannister told Sky News that although plans for the holiday period were in place months ago it had 15% more coaches than anticipated and bad weather on Friday caused further delays.
He said that with only half the number of coaches booked in for Sunday, he hopes the backlog will clear “overnight or into tomorrow morning”.
Rosie, a woman travelling on a coach with her family, said they were “left overnight” with “no idea how long we’ll be here”.
“We’ve been waiting for 12 hours already and it’ll be at least another two or three before we get on the ferry,” she told Sky News on Saturday morning.
“It’s very frustrating. I’m an environmental campaigner, I forced my family to get on this bus instead of flying.
“It’s supposed to be an easy overnight trip, but it’s absolute carnage and there’s no excuse for it at all.”
Up to 40 coaches stranded in parks overnight
Mr Bannister said between 20 and 40 coaches were rediverted to local coach parks overnight.
“We started calling them through in the early hours of the morning as soon as there was space,” he said.
Simon Lyons, who is taking his son’s football team to Amsterdam, has been stuck in the coach queue at Dover for “a couple of hours”.
He told Sky News the group of teenagers are 48th in the queue to be checked, but there are currently no ferries departing due to the build up of traffic.
“There’s a real lack of French border staff,” he said.
“We thought coach and ferry was the way to go, but the situation on the ground is not good.
“Speaking to the staff here and they say it’s entirely down to what happened with Brexit. Each individual passport needs to be individually stamped and that’s why it’s taking so long.”
One person posted on Twitter: “My children have been sat on their school coach overnight and are still awaiting news from P&O on when they can move from the buffer zone!”
While another wrote: “My daughter has been in a queue since midnight. Still no idea when the coach will be allowed to board.”
Asked whether the delays were the result of Brexit, Mr Bannister added: “It does make processing more challenging.”
Port staff ‘deeply frustrated’
The port – which declared the critical incident – said in a statement: “The Port of Dover is deeply frustrated by last night’s and this morning’s situation and particularly so on behalf of all the ferry operators’ coach passengers who have had to endure such a long wait at the port.
“Whilst freight and car traffic was processed steadily regardless of the additional challenging weather conditions and high seasonal volumes, coach traffic suffered significant delays due to lengthy French border processes and sheer volume.”
The port added that “additional coach bookings taken by ferry operators for Easter has impacted operations for the port”.
P&O Ferries said that after a two or three-hour wait, coach passengers will be “on the next crossing to Calais… as soon as you are through passport control”.
It added that it is providing refreshments to coach passengers who have been stuck at the cruise terminal for hours and also trying to get food and drink to people in the buffer zone.
The company blamed “the time it is taking to process each vehicle at French border controls” for the delays.
DFDS Seaways apologised for waits of “up to 120 minutes” for coaches and cars.
It said it is “operating a cross channel shuttle service” so “all passengers can be shipped on the first available departure upon arrival at check in”.
The company added in a tweet that traffic is “flowing freely” at Dover but “car traffic is very busy”.
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