Blood donors turned away due to new safety ruling that bans nurses from tapping skin to raise veinSarah Midwinter, a donor of 30
years, was turned awaySkin cannot be touched once it has been cleaned in case infection is spread in non-clinical environments
Incident sparks concern over shortage of donors


Sarah Midwinter was told that skin tapping is now banned in non-clinical environments

Sarah Midwinter was told that skin tapping is now banned in non-clinical environments

A woman, who has given blood for 30 years, was stunned when she was turned away from a donor session because of a new safety ruling.

Sarah Midwinter, 53, was told that skin tapping – a common procedure to bring veins to the surface before a needle is inserted – is now banned in non-clinical environments and as result she was forced to leave a facility setup at her local church.

The incident has sparked concern that millions of people across the country will be deterred from donating at
temporary centres at a time when blood is desperately needed.

Traditionally before a blood donation
takes place, the skin is wiped clean with sterile solution and then a
small area is tapped to raise the vein.

But new guidelines state that the skin cannot be touched once it has been cleaned in case infection is spread.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) –
which manages national blood, tissue and organ donations – says this
procedure can now only be carried out in clinics where surgical gloves
can be worn by staff.

Ms Midwinter from Bishops Nympton near South Molton, Devon, said: 'When I gave blood in the past the nurse would tap my arm to bring the vein to the surface.

'But when I went to give blood at the
local church I was told nurses were not allowed to touch my skin due to
a new hygiene rule.

'They said there was a danger of infection.'

Ms Midwinter has the 'universal' O negative blood type and has donated 50 pints in her lifetime to help save lives.

When she was told about the new rule in December she even offered to tap her arm
herself while wearing gloves and was willing to sign a waiver to allow
the nurse to do it for her – but her donation was still declined.

The nurse revealed that at least five other donors had been turned away for the same reason that day.

She added: 'It is crazy. It makes me very cross.
This has never been an issue in the past and it seems ridiculous when
the NHS is always appealing for new donors.

Experts recently predicted a 'dramatic' decline in donations because of major events like the London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Experts recently predicted a 'dramatic' decline in donations because of major events like the London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

'I want to see this rule scrapped. It will put people off giving blood.

'I'm
a keen horse rider and am always aware I could have an accident and
need blood. It is really important to donate and I've been doing it on
and off since I was 18. I'm upset that this silly rule is stopping
that.'

It is only patients with thin veins, such as Ms Midwinter, that need their skin tapping and those with prominent veins are unaffected by the new regulation.

Jo Tossell, NHSBT's director of
Infection Prevention and Control, said: 'Our procedures have been
updated to reflect the NICE guidelines around the insertion of venous
needles.

'This is to protect both our donors
and also blood recipients from infection, and is based on the most
recent available scientific evidence.

'Unfortunately, in a few cases a donor's veins may not be large enough to remain prominent throughout the cleaning procedure.

'In a dedicated clinical environment
with the necessary staff it would be possible to put on sterile gloves
and re-raise the vein just prior to insertion of the needle.

'However, it is not practical to do this in the temporary session environments where the majority of our blood is collected.'

Experts recently predicted a 'dramatic' decline in donations because of major events like the London Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

The NHS predicts approximately two million units of blood will be needed by hospitals throughout 2012, and the equivalent of 500 extra donations will be needed each week in the first six months to help them build blood stocks.