Additional testing for Hepatitis B (HBV)

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS) will begin testing on 30th May 2022 to find out whether donors have had Hepatitis B in the past. We expect that only a small number of donors will have had previous Hepatitis B infection. However, these donors will no longer be able to donate.

What is Hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the Hepatitis B Virus. The virus is most commonly transmitted from mother to child during birth and delivery, as well as through contact with blood or other body fluids during sex with an infected partner, unsafe injections or exposures to sharp instruments.

Hepatitis B often does not cause any obvious symptoms in adults, and typically passes in a few months without treatment.

Hepatitis B is common in many parts of the world including South and South-East Asia, the Middle and Far East, southern Europe and Africa, but it is less common in Northern Ireland.

Don’t you test for Hepatitis B already?

Yes. All blood donations are routinely tested for tested for Hepatitis B as well as Hepatitis C, Hepatitis E, HIV, HTLV and Syphilis. This additional test is designed to find out whether a donor has had Hepatitis B in the past, and is being put in place to further enhance the safety of the blood supply.

How do you test for Hepatitis B?

  • Since 1972, we have tested blood donors for Hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg). This is the protein which coats the virus.
  • In 2010, we also began testing for Hepatitis B DNA, the genetic code of the virus itself. This increased our ability to detect donors with active Hepatitis B.
  • In 2022, we will start testing all donors for anti-Hepatitis B core (anti-HBc) antibodies. This will allow us to identify donors who have previously had Hepatitis B.

What happens after you test my blood?

Donors with negative results

Most donors have negative Hepatitis B test results and hear no more from us (we only get in touch if your Hepatitis B test is positive). If all test results are satisfactory, we can use your gift to treat patients and you can keep giving blood.

  • False reactions

On occasion, the tests used in NIBTS will produce false positive results. Because of our operational procedures, NIBTS cannot use a donation if it gives a false reaction. If a donor’s blood causes a false reaction, we will write to let you know. The false reaction does not mean that there is anything wrong with your health, and there is no need for you to see a doctor or have any additional tests. You will be able to donate again once the reaction has cleared, and we will check this by taking samples rather than a full donation when you next come to give blood.

Donors with positive results

  • Active Hepatitis B

We rarely find donors with positive HBsAg and Hepatitis B DNA results. If we do, our medical team will get in touch to tell you your results, what they mean for you, and what needs to happen next. They will ask permission to tell your GP, and to refer you to appropriate follow-up services. They will also give you information which helps to explain your test results and diagnosis. NIBTS is required by law to notify Public Health whenever anyone is diagnosed with Hepatitis B. Unfortunately, you will no longer be able to give blood.

  • Previous Hepatitis B

We expect that only a small number of donors will have had previous Hepatitis B infection. Most people who have anti-HBc antibodies will have cleared Hepatitis B; have undetectable levels of virus in their bloodstream; and will have experienced no symptoms.

If you are found positive for anti-HBc antibodies, our medical team will get in touch to tell you your results, and what they mean for you. They will also ask permission to tell your GP.

You won’t need any routine medical reviews or treatment as you no longer have active infection. However, you will no longer be eligible to give blood. This decision has been made to allow us to begin the complex testing programme promptly and safely and may be reviewed in the future.

The Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service’s priorities are providing a safe blood supply for patients, and a safe experience for donors, and we constantly strive to improve both. The patients who receive your gift cannot thank you themselves, so on their behalf, thank you.

CMO’s welcome to the programme

Professor Sir Michael McBride Chief Medical Officer, DoHAs the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) of the Blueprint Programme, I am delighted work is now underway to design the future management structure and operating model for HSC pathology services.

The pandemic showed just how important sustainable pathology services are to our health system. In recognition of this, last autumn the Minister  announced a £40m investment in a regional Laboratory information system (LIMS) and published a policy statement setting out the future vision for pathology services, including the establishment of the Blueprint Programme to plan for a new regional pathology management structure. Alongside the important work taking place through the pathology network, these developments will create a strong foundation for a sustainable world class pathology service for HSC patients well into the future.

The first step in that journey will be the forthcoming series of stakeholder engagement events in May and June being organised by the programme. The Department’s Rebuilding Management Board has given its collective support for this work, and I hope you will engage wholeheartedly in the programme as it moves forward. The Department recognises the scale of change in pathology, we will take account of that in our planning, but we must retain the strong focus on delivering our high-quality business as usual during this time of change.


What are we doing to keep our donors and staff safe?


In addition to the stringent requirements of the Blood Safety and Quality Regulations (2005) that always apply to blood donation, the WHO has provided guidance to blood services on how we should maintain a safe and adequate blood supply during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Specifically, they advise that the guidance that public health bodies provide for health care settings does not apply to blood donation sessions that occur away from a hospital setting. All of our donation settings, including those at headquarters in Belfast, occur away from a hospital. More on the WHO advice can be found at

The WHO advises that the public health advice for the general population applies to blood and platelet donation sessions. Currently, in the UK, the public health advice is that members of the public are not required to wear any form of personal protective equipment (PPE) as they go about their daily lives.

Additional Safety Measures: what you can do to keep everyone safe

We have completed detailed risk assessments of the donation process particularly at those points in the donation journey where it is impossible to maintain social distancing of two metres. We have put in place additional measures to ensure that donors and staff remain safe during donation. Some measures we will ask you as donors to follow.

Dos and Don’ts


  • make an appointment to donate
  • check that you meet the basic criteria to donate; see
  • In light of current infection rates, we kindly request that donors wear a face mask when attending to donate.
  • ensure good hand hygiene by washing or sanitising your hands when you arrive at the donation session
  • maintain cough and sneeze etiquette by using a clean tissue to catch your cough or sneeze, disposing of the tissue and washing or sanitising your hands immediately. If you don’t have a tissue (these will be provided on session) please cough or sneeze into the crook of your free arm
  • attend for donation alone


  • attend unless you have an appointment
  • attend if you or someone in your household has been unwell for any reason (including tummy bugs or common cold) in the past 14 days
  • attend if you have active hayfever or allergy symptoms including a runny nose and watering eyes
  • bring children under 17 years of age with you when you donate


Please note we are still observing social distancing at sessions and the donation suite,

  1. At this time, only donors will be able to access the donation area. We kindly ask that any friends or family who accompany you wait outside the donation venue for you
  2. Once inside the donation session, waiting area chairs will be arranged so you can sit slightly separated from other donors. Please do not move the chairs closer together!
  3. Children aged 16 and under will not be able to enter the donation session and we kindly request that you make alternative arrangements for childcare whilst you donate.

Thank you for your continued support of the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service.

General statement :

We would like to remind all donors that NIBTS has a zero tolerance approach to the abuse of staff. Should staff experience behaviour that they feel is aggressive or abusive, they will ask the individual to leave the session immediately.

Job Opportunity

For a career that makes a difference


Department: Haematology/Blood Transfusion, Microbiology, Cellular Pathology,
Cytopathology, Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service, Clinical Chemistry,
Regional Specialities

Location: NI Pathology Laboratories

Applications are now invited from enthusiastic and motivated individuals who will work as part of a skilled dedicated team as well as autonomously to deliver, a high quality, efficient, safe and effective laboratory service.

Roles will be dependent upon the discipline concerned but will mainly consist of the analysis of biological specimens using scientific and analytical methods utilising various manual, semi-automated and automated techniques and equipment.

Essential Criteria:

You will:
• Be registered as a Biomedical Scientist with the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC) AND
• Have completed IBMS Specialist Portfolio (or equivalent) relevant to discipline plus at least one year’s post registration experience within relevant discipline

• Hold current HCPC registration as a Biomedical Scientist obtained prior to 2007 and have at least 3 years post HCPC registration experience in the relevant discipline.
Following this interview process, a waiting list will be compiled to fill future vacancies. Depending on the needs of the service, consideration will be given to candidates interested in permanent, temporary, full time and part time employment.

What we offer:

• Exciting opportunities across all disciplines and locations;
• Support in your Continuing Professional Development;
• Opportunities to participate in various service improvement initiatives;
• The chance for you to participate in laboratory events to showcase our profession;
• Opportunities for career progression.


Apply online:

Closing date for applications: Friday 16th November 2018

Interviews will take place on Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th November 2018.

An Equal Opportunities Employer

Click on the image below for Information on Living and Working in Northern Ireland

July in Numbers

Donors attended sessions

Units of Blood collected

Units of Platelets collected



Christina’s story

Before I had my first son Eoin in October 2000 I would have always given blood. Everything went well with the pregnancy and he was born a week early. When I went back to donate in 2002 I got a letter to say my blood couldn’t be used as I now had Rhesus antibodies; I was devastated, I loved giving blood. It wasn’t till I was pregnant with my second son in 2004 that the doctors were keeping a good eye on my liver functions but the pregnancy went well until 33 weeks when I hadn’t had as much movement from the baby. I went to my doctors on the Tuesday morning and was rushed to Craigavon where I was told the baby was in danger and I had an emergency c-section. Our beautiful boy Rian was born but he was so so sick, his bloods were so low and his organs were damaged due to being so anaemic; he died 2 hours later.

When we met with doctors a few months later they said any further pregnancy would be very dangerous but of course I went on ahead and got pregnant in 2005. All of my care was in the Royal under a specialist team who kept a very close eye on me. At 20 weeks I was rushed to Glasgow for an intrauterine transfusion as the baby was becoming anaemic; the baby got blood through the cord. They don’t do the procedure over here.

I had to go over every 2 weeks for the procedure and at 34 weeks I got the 8th one. The next week my son Joe was born by c-section; he was rushed to neo-natal where he spent 8 days. He was well monitored on discharge and he received 2 top up transfusions at 6 and 9 weeks. He is now 12 and has never looked back. A lot of my family and friends started to give blood from this.

In 2008 I got pregnant again and again my care was through the Royal. This time things were going a bit smoother, I didn’t need to go to Glasgow until 24 weeks when the baby needed a transfusion. I got 5 in total this time and at 33 weeks my son Jack was born. Again he was rushed to the neo-natal unit. He spent 14 days in Belfast and 3 in Craigavon before he could home again. He was the same as Joe and needed 2 top up transfusions at 6 and 10 weeks, he is now a healthy 9 year old.

I really thought that was me, I had now had 3 c-sections and 3 healthy boys at home but I always longed for a girl and in 2015 I became pregnant again. This time all my care was in the Royal but the baby was anaemic a lot earlier. I had to go for my 1st intrauterine transfusion at 19 weeks and the baby was so badly anaemic I had to go back the next week as well. I had 5 in total and at 26 weeks my waters broke. So I had to stay in the Royal on full bed rest for as long as I could but the baby started to become slowly anaemic. I was due to go to Glasgow again at 28 weeks but I couldn’t fly and I was rushed for an emergency c-section. My little girl Jessie was born weighing 2lb 14oz, I didn’t even get to see her, she was rushed away to ICU and got a lot of medical attention and transfusions. It was the next day before I got to see her, she was so so tiny, she had to go for an operation at 3 days old and had a gastrostomy tube fitted as her oesophagus was formed. She was very sick and in total had another 5 transfusions. At 8 weeks she got her tube removed and was allowed a bottle, a happy day all around. She spent 5 weeks in the Royal and a further 5.5 in Craigavon neo-natal before she got to come home and meet her brothers and family.

We can never thank the people enough who donate at all the sessions because really without them my 3 kids would not be here today, forever grateful. Many of our family and friends donate because they know the true meaning of it to us.