Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Think they can't axe David Cameron? Don't bet on it (Daily Mail)

If the Prime Minister's refusal to change policies looks like bringing certain defeat, the Tories will dump him, writes Simon Heffer.

2. Britain should lead in Europe, not leave it (Financial Times)

Isolation would make us weaker and poorer, writes Michael Heseltine.

3. Signs of Recovery (Times)

Data suggests evidence of an upturn, notes a Times leader. The government must ease the conditions for investment-led growth.

4. Prince Charles is a danger to democracy – even when I agree with him (Guardian)

I support Charles's views on climate change, but still believe he should stay silent – as the Queen probably does, says Peter Wilby.

5. The Syrian dilemma: inch by inch, the west gets involved in an internecine civil war (Independent)

Even if there is a breakthrough, Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies have stated clearly that they will have no truck with negotiations, writes Kim Sengupta.

6. Raised voices do not convince me on Europe (Times)

It is hard to share the certainties of either side in the in-out argument, writes Matthew Parris. We don’t-knows deserve better.

7. David Cameron would like to forget gay marriage, but it will haunt him (Daily Telegraph)

The coalition alters mankind’s most important social structure at its peril, writes Charles Moore.

8. Labour and coalition: Talking time (Guardian)

It is not too early to hope that some better preparatory work than last time is already in train, not least on the personal level, says a Guardian editorial.

9. Don’t get cross about the old man's network - get even (Daily Telegraph)

Instead of resenting the injustice of internships, maximise a child's chances by teaching them to read and write, says Graeme Archer.

10. Proof that leaders need to look the part (Financial Times)

We expect successful people to be attractive, writes Tim Harford.

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UK to reconsider blood donation ban for men who have sex with men

Under current rules, men who have had sex with another man in the past twelve months cannot donate blood.

During Women and Equalities questions this morning, Jane Ellison MP slipped in a bombshell: men who have sex with other men may soon be able to donate blood. 

Ellision, who is Undersecretary of State for Public Health, said that Public Health England has carried out a new survey of blood donors which is currently being analysed. Next year, the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), which sets blood donation guidelines, will use the evidence to review the current policy. 

She said:

Donor referrel for MSM [men who have sex with men] was changed from lifetime to 12 months referral in 2011. Four years later it is time again to look at this issue. Public Health England has conducted an anonymous survey of donors and I'm pleased that the advisory SaBTO will review this issue in 2016.

The current ban (which also applies to a range of other groups including sex workers) is based on the fact that MSM are at higher risk of contracting HIV, according to every Public Health England survey ever conducted on the disease. Both HIV and Hepatitis C don't show up in blood tests immediately, so the 12 month rule is based on leaving a "window" for the diseases to develop and be testable. The rules are ostensibly based on sexual activity, not on sexual orientation.

However, as Michael Fabricant pointed out in response to Ellison's announcement, in practice, it also looks a lot like discrimination - there is no ban on blood donation from straight people who have had unprotected sex, for example. Fabricant continued that "equality on this issue" is needed, and clinicians themselves feel a change is "long overdue".

Blood donations in the UK have fallen by 40 per cent in the last decade, a fact which may have contributed to the decision to review the current rules.

A Stonewall spokesperson said:

We’re delighted the Department of Health Minister Jane Ellison has announced this review.

We want a donation system that is fair and based on up-to-date medical evidence. Currently gay and bi people cannot give blood if they have had sex in the past 12 months,  regardless of whether they used protection. Yet straight people who may have had unprotected sex can donate. These current rules are clearly unfair and we want to see people asked similar questions - irrespective of their sexual orientation - to accurately assess the risk of infection. Screening all donors by sexual behaviour rather than by sexual orientation would increase blood stocks in times of shortage and create a safer supply by giving a more accurate, non-discriminatory assessment.

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.