Lifetime ban on gay men donating blood could be lifted, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said.

The North’s lifetime ban on gay men donating blood could be lifted, Health Minister Simon Hamilton said.

The prohibition was removed in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011 and replaced with rules allowing gay males to donate a year after their last sexual encounter with another man.

However, successive Stormont health ministers have retained the life-long deferral, citing "blood safety" issues.

The Court of Appeal is currently considering if blood donation is a devolved matter or whether responsibility lies with U.K. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Hamilton, who previously indicated he would be guided by science and medical evidence, said the contentious issue should be resolved "promptly" after the judges make their ruling.

In response to a written question, published on Friday, Hamilton said he had written to Hunt suggesting that SaBTO, an advisory committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs, provide a new report on the current level of risk associated with a permanent deferral, a five-year deferral and a one-year deferral.

"If such a piece of work affirms emerging evidence that blood safety has been increased in Great Britain, it would be my view that such evidence should be followed and that Northern Ireland should adopt the same policy on blood donations from MSM (men who have had sex with men) as the rest of the United Kingdom,” Hamilton said.

The Rainbow Project, an advocacy and support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, has welcomed the development but said more needs to be done.

Sinn Fein MLA Caitriona Ruane described the ban on blood donation by gay men as nonsensical.

"We now need to see Simon Hamilton break from the policies of his predecessors and take action on this to end this unfair lifetime ban,” she said.