Organ donation soars over past five years, says NHS Blood and Transplant


One father explains how he feels after the organs of his daughter were donated after her death

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The number of people donating organs after death has risen 50% since 2008.

More than 1,200 people in the UK donated their organs in the last year, leading to about 3,100 transplants.

The increase has been largely credited to the network of specialist nurses who approach and support bereaved relatives in hospitals.

But with the numbers on the organ donation register remaining unchanged, the NHS Blood and Transplant service is still asking people to sign up.

Sally Johnson, from NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "The NHS has worked hard to ensure every potential donor is identified, that the organ donation register is checked, and that families are approached.

The Role of a Specialist Nurse

Andrea Bradley, at Morriston Hospital Swansea, decided to become an organ donation nurse after her father received a corneal transplant. She is the first person to suggest approaching a bereaved family about organ donation.

"You are asking a family to make a decision at the most difficult time of their lives. I give them all the information and hold nothing back.

"Most are in shock- it is an art form to gauge if the family understands what you are saying. No one has ever been angry with me when I suggest the possibility of organ donation.

"If donation goes ahead I stay with the patient throughout, putting their information on the system to find a match, going to theatre with them and then the chapel of rest. I ring the family, if they would like to know I tell them what was retrieved. Later I meet with them and can tell them how the people who received the organs are doing."

Refusal rate

"But the NHS can't do it on its own. We need a transformation in donor and family consent because the UK's family refusal rate remains one of the highest in Europe."

Last year, 125 families overruled an individual's intention to donate.

Ms Johnson said: "It is important families know their relative is signed up to the register. On the worst day of their lives, don't let families guess"

In 2008, the UK's health ministers accepted the recommendations of the Organ Donation Taskforce.

These included better identification of potential donors, improved referral of potential donors and improved care of donors to increase the number of organs available - around three organs were retrieved last year for every donor.

Each donor has the potential to help nine people through donation of a heart, lungs, two kidneys, pancreas, liver and small bowel and two corneas.

Since the Taskforce report recommendations five years ago, Scotland and Northern Ireland have seen the largest increases in deceased donors- 74% and 82% respectively.

And the actual number of transplants in the UK is up by 30% - the difference between the increase in donors and transplants is partly down to organs from some who wish to donate being unsuitable because of factors such as age and obesity.

Opt-out system

But with three people in the UK dying a day because of a lack of donor organs, many experts believe more need to be done.

To Sign Up to Donate

  • 0300 123 23 23
  • text SAVE to 62323

Dr Vivienne Nathanson from the British Medical Association says the donation system needs an overhaul. Referring to recent research she said: "[We] concluded the best way forward for the UK was to introduce an opt-out system with safeguards."

The plan would mean people were deemed to consent to organ donation, unless they object during their lifetime. This system is being considered for introduction in Wales in two years time

Ministers in Northern Ireland recently announced the intention to consult on public attitudes towards organ donation, including the introduction of an opt-out system.

Organ donation graphic

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  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    I agree with organ donation but I don't agree with an opt-out system. I think it could give the NHS a license to withdraw or refuse treatment in some instances.

    We should encourage people to become organ donors not force them into opting out of it at a time of great distress.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Dr Vivienne Nathanson from the British Medical Association says the donation system needs an overhaul. Referring to recent research she said: "[We] concluded the best way forward for the UK was to introduce an opt-out system with safeguards."

    Over my dead body!!!!

    Organ donation must remain an opt-in system only. No one has the right to take control of something that does not belong to them

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Organ donation MUST remain the choice of the donor and without pressure to donate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    My dad received a double lung transplant 5 weeks ago. His previous life expectancy was less than a year, now, fingers crossed, he can continue with a reasonably normal life. What an amazingly incredible gift to give. I will never have enough words to express how grateful I am to the donor and would encourage all that can sign up to do so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    I won't be a donor and will opt out asap if the law changes, my view is that it's just wrong full stop, I have made my feelings clear to my family, I don't ever want someone elses organ and I will be taking mine with me for the worms to have etc....


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