By Rebecca Black (PA)
Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann is backing a call for more new blood donors to come forward.
The number of new donors halved during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on World Blood Donor Day, Mr Swann, himself a blood donor, said the demand has remained at the same level.
“Therefore it’s vital that we bolster our donor base by encouraging people who have never donated before to start giving blood, and go on to become regular donors,” he said.
Last August the rules about blood donation for gay and bisexual men changed, with men who have been in a same-sex relationship for more than three months able to donate blood.
Previously men who had been in a same-sex relationship had to wait for a year after their last sexual activity before donating blood,
Mr Swann said: “Changes to the criteria for donor eligibility introduced last August means that there are now more people than ever before in Northern Ireland able to give blood.
“So if you haven’t donated before, please consider registering today. Giving blood really does save lives.”
John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said “The implementation of the new rules surrounding blood donations last summer is good news for everyone in Northern Ireland.
“The changes mean a large number of people who were never been able to donate blood are now eligible to do so.
“We would like to take this opportunity on World Blood Donor Day to thank those who have donated since the changes were introduced and encourage all others who are now eligible to register as blood donors.”
Karin Jackson, chief executive of the NI Blood Transfusion Service, said the theme of this year’s World Blood Donor Day is that giving blood is an act of solidarity.
“This is particularly true as, with any blood donation, you are positively impacting someone’s life, their family’s life and your local community,” she said.
“On behalf of NIBTS, I want to recognise and thank all those who donate blood in Northern Ireland – lives are saved every day as a result of your generosity.
“Whether you’re a long-time donor like the health minister, who is approaching his 60th donation, or whether you have just given blood for the first time, thank you.
“Now, more than ever, we encourage you to either donate or to join our register to become a donor today. Donation takes less than 30 minutes of your life, but one donation can save up to three lives.”