Opinion Former Article

ESRC: Research supports World Blood Donor Day message on blood safety

Other countries could learn from the mistakes made in UK blood policy concludes research awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council's Michael Young Prize.

Carol Grayson's research supports the message from the World Health Organisation, Red Cross and Red Crescent on World Blood Donor Day (14th June) for 100% of global blood donations to be unpaid contributions. This places a renewed emphasis on improving the safety of blood and forms the foundation of a sustainable national blood supply which could be adopted in every country throughout the world.

The award-winning research stresses the importance of an open and safe blood policy for all countries to cut the risk of patients contracting other blood borne infections which scientists conclude is not a question of "if" a new virus emerges but "when".

Carol's study found that successive governments' failed to honour the commitment of former Health Minister (Lord) David Owen in the 1970s to achieve self-sufficiency in UK blood products. Although the UK did not pay its donors it bought blood products from America that came from virally 'high-risk' donors from prisons and from blood collection centres where sick and homeless people often sold their blood. These paid donors where more at risk of having HIV and Hepatitis C. Their blood was manufactured into factor concentrates which were then given to haemophiliacs in the UK as part of their NHS treatment.

Haemophiliacs have been hugely affected by the contamination of blood products with 4,700 infected with HIV and/or hepatitis viruses. Almost 2,000 haemophiliacs have since died or are terminally ill.

The impacts are still being felt by the haemophilia community today. Carol's research formed part of the evidence submitted to the Archer Independent Public Inquiry into contaminated blood which was privately funded. "The problem with a 'blood for money' system is that it attracts those individuals that are less concerned about their own health or suitability as donors because their focus is on the financial reward."

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