Page last updated at 12:04 GMT, Friday, 26 September 2008 13:04 UK

More people cleared to give blood

Blood can only be kept for a finite period

Some people with diabetes and high blood pressure are to be allowed to donate blood for the first time.

A committee of experts has ruled it is safe for these groups to give blood, even if they are taking medication to control their condition.

However, donors must have no complications or underlying medical conditions - and people taking insulin for diabetes remain barred.

There were concerns that donating blood might compromise diabetes medication.

And doctors were concerned that people on medication to lower their blood pressure might be at an increased risk of fainting when giving blood.

However, the UK Blood Services Standing Advisory Committee on Care and Selection of Donors decided that neither concern was backed by hard evidence.

In the UK almost one in 20 people has diabetes, and increasing numbers are being diagnosed with the type 2 form of the condition, which mainly affects adults.

However, the majority manage their condition by taking tablets and most are fit and healthy.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, also affects around one in 20 people in the UK, but the condition is being treated at a much earlier stage than previously, and with an increasingly wide range of drugs.

However, to ensure that it is safe to give blood donors have to fill in a health check questionnaire and talk to a trained member of staff before pressing ahead.

Many affected

Dr Lorna Williamson, medical director of NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are diagnosed in increasing numbers of people.

"Many were regular blood donors who were saddened when they had to stop donating.

"Guidelines are in place to ensure safety of both donors and patients.

"The committee regularly reviews new evidence and that has shown that it is safe for them to donate so this restriction has been lifted."

Libby Dowling, of the charity Diabetes UK, said: "We welcome these new guidelines and are pleased that some people with diabetes are now eligible to donate blood if they wish to.

"There are 2.3 million people with diabetes in the UK and these new regulations mean that a significant proportion of people with the condition can now help save lives by donating blood."

On average the blood services across the UK need 8,200 donations each day to keep up stocks.

Blood cannot be keep for more than a relatively short period of time, and so the blood services have sufficient stocks to meet demand for just 9-10 days.

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