Scottish Parliament: questions on XMRV and blood donation

From the Scottish Parliament’s Official Report, 4 November 2010

SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE QUESTION TIME: HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Charlie Gordon (Glasgow Cathcart) (Lab): To ask the Scottish Executive what its policy is on blood testing for the presence of xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus.

The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing (Nicola Sturgeon): Based on up-to-date medical and scientific advice from a range of expert advisory bodies and committees, the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service in Scotland does not currently screen blood for xenotropic murine leukaemia virus-related virus as the virus has no known association with any blood-borne infection.

Charlie Gordon: I understand that patients who suffer from long-term conditions such as myalgic encephalomyelitis are no longer allowed to donate blood. One such patient—a constituent of mine—has been refused a referral for a blood test by her general practitioner on ethical grounds, a view that her local health board backs. Does the cabinet secretary recognise the increased concern among such patients? If so, how will she address it?

Nicola Sturgeon: I thank Charlie Gordon for raising the issue. I understand the concern of such patients. Indeed, a member of the public asked me a question on the topic at the public question and answer session at the Greater Glasgow and Clyde NHS Board annual review on Monday this week.

Charlie Gordon is right in what he says. As I said, a risk assessment of a possible link between XMRV and ME/chronic fatigue syndrome found no evidence of a link or a risk of transmission to transfusion patients. However, the assessment led to recognition that donor selection criteria guidelines for people who have ever had ME/CFS were not in line with the guidelines for other relapsing conditions. In those cases, deferral is lifelong, but that is to protect the potential donor, not the blood recipient. The United Kingdom blood services standing advisory committee on the care and selection of donors and the joint professional advisory committee therefore took the opportunity to update the guidelines. As a result, from 1 November this year, any patient who has ever had ME/CFS will be permanently deferred from donating blood to protect their own health, not to protect those receiving the blood.

I am sure that Charlie Gordon accepts that, in such cases, the Scottish Government must act on the basis of the best scientific evidence and advice that it has. In that respect, we followed the most recent advice that was given to us.

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