What are blood donors telling us about injecting drug use?

the UK Blood Donor Survey Steering Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and objectives: Injecting drug use (IDU), a permanent deferral for blood donors, was included in a review of donor selection criteria completed in 2017. Here, we describe what is known about IDU in blood donors in the United Kingdom (UK). Materials and methods: Data were obtained from routine surveillance of donation testing and confirmed positive donors and a 2013/2014 UK survey of behaviour and compliance in screen-negative donors. Results: Between 2009 and 2018, of 22 UK million donations screened, IDU was self-reported at the post-test discussion in 5% (86/1777) of donors with confirmed positive donations. Recent injecting within 12 months was reported in 8 HCV-positive donors, but only in 1/14 donors where it was clear HCV infection had been acquired in the previous 12 months. Of 65 439 survey responders, 25 reported IDU, which when weighted to the donor population gave 99·95% compliance. Most of the 111 donors reporting IDU felt it was not important to their donation, mainly because their injecting was in the past, while three HCV-positive recent injectors reported not sharing needles so presumably felt safe to donate. Conclusion: Compliance with the permanent deferral appeared extremely high with low levels of injecting reported by donors, mainly in the past. This agreed with the low-incident HCV infection observed in UK donors. These data contributed to a recommendation to reduce the deferral to 1 year. Ways of improving compliance in those few donors at current increased risk of infection need to be investigated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-646
Number of pages10
JournalVox Sanguinis
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks to the blood donors for their support and to the reporters to the routine donor surveillance scheme. The UK Blood Donor Survey Steering Group 2012-2016 membership consisted of all authors, Harpreet Kohli (Chair, NHS Lanarkshire), Moira Carter (Scottish Blood Transfusion Service), Stephen Field (Welsh Blood Service), Gail Miflin and Crispin Wickenden (NHS Blood and Transplant), Joanne Murdock and Kathryn Maguire (Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service). The UK Blood Donor Survey received funding from the UK Forum. Comments on the manuscript from the NHSBT/PHE Epidemiology Unit Steering Group were gratefully received.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 International Society of Blood Transfusion


  • blood safety
  • donors
  • epidemiology
  • transfusion
  • transmissible infections


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