GAY men in Oxfordshire and across the UK will be able to give blood as easily as straight people from today in a landmark change.

New eligibility rules that will allow more men who have sex with men to donate blood, platelets and plasma come into effect this week, marking a historic move to make blood donation more inclusive.

From today – World Blood Donor Day – the questions asked of everyone when they come to donate blood in England, Scotland and Wales will change.

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Eligibility will be based on individual circumstances surrounding health, travel and sexual behaviours evidenced to be at a higher risk of sexual infection.

Until yesterday, men were not allowed to give blood if they had had sex with another man within three months.

However, donors will no longer be asked that, removing the element of assessment that is based on the previous population-based risks.

The changes follow an evidence-based review into individualised criteria by the FAIR (For the Assessment of Individualised Risk) steering group led by NHS Blood and Transplant and come at a time when demand for blood is increasing.

Ella Poppitt, chief nurse for blood donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do.

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"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.

"Our priority is to make sure that donors are able to answer the pre-donation questions in a setting that makes them feel comfortable and safe and donation is something that continues to make people feel amazing.

"Our staff have been trained to make sure these more personal conversations are conducted with care and sensitivity and accurate information is captured.

"We are asking all blood, plasma and platelet donors to please consider the new questions alongside the existing health and travel questions before their appointment, and to re-schedule if they do not meet the changed criteria to donate right now."

Ms Poppitt added that staff want blood donation to be a 'positive experience' and they are looking forward to welcoming donors as they move forward with these changes.