Experts have advised the Government to lift a controversial blanket ban on homosexual men giving blood, amid fears of blood shortages as younger donors fail to come forward.
But despite a clear recommendation to lift the ban more than a month ago, ministers are dragging their feet – and experts on the advisory committee on the safety of blood, tissues and organs (Sabto) say they have been warned not to talk about the "politically sensitive" situation.
Figures released for Britain's first National Blood Week, ahead of World Blood Donor day on Tuesday, are expected to show that the pool of donors is at risk of depleting. At present there are 1.7 million people on the UK donor list and the NHS will be pushing for more people to sign up.
A panel of medical experts recommended last month that the ban should be relaxed so that gay men who have not had sex within a 12-month period can donate blood. But ministers have so far declined to endorse the experts' decision.
The new recommendation brings the UK in line with many other countries that already permit homosexuals to make blood donations. Health safety experts advised that the ban on men who have had sex with men was no longer medically justified to protect the blood pool from HIV.