Huffpost UK Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Sally Johnson Headshot

Without Organ Donation, There Can Be No Transplantation

Posted: Updated:
NHS GARY WALKER
PA

Yesterday's announcement by NHS Blood and Transplant, that the NHS hit the target to increase the number of deceased organ donors by 50%, set by the Organ Donation Taskforce in 2008, is the culmination of five years of innovation, change, improved collaboration and sheer hard work. I'd like to thank all those who have contributed.

This is a huge achievement and during 2012/13, there were 1212 deceased donors, the highest number ever in the UK. As a consequence, over 3,100 people last year received the transplant that they needed.

Reaching this ambitious target in just five years is a result of successfully implementing the recommendations in the Taskforce report. It's even more remarkable when we consider there had been virtually no increase in the number of deceased donors for a decade before the target was set.

Success has been the result of a number of factors. The NHS has transformed its approach to organ donation. Throughout the UK, Clinical Leads and their clinical colleagues in hospitals, hospital donation committees and NHS Blood and Transplant specialist nurses have worked together to make sure that potential donors are identified and their families approached to discuss donation. Guidelines developed by NICE and professional bodies, have clarified what is best practice and given clinicians confidence to know they are doing the right thing, both ethically and legally. Campaigns have highlighted the importance of organ donation to the general public and increasingly, organ donation is being normalised. I want to thank they many hundreds of doctors, nurses and their other colleagues who have made all of this possible.

We must also share our heartfelt thanks with every family who, at time of great sadness, supported their loves one's wish to donate their organs and transform the lives of up to nine other people. They can be really proud of what they have done.

Of course our work goes on and with three people in the UK dying in need of an organ transplant every day, we must find ways to further improve deceased donation rates. If we are to help more people on the waiting list, it's vital that no opportunities for organ donation are missed.

Despite the huge increase in donor numbers, brought about because more families have been asked about donation, the underlying rate of families agreeing to donation in hospital has not changed and consent rates have not risen. If we are to save more lives, something I believe we can and must do, then we need to see a revolution in attitudes towards organ donation. We must move from a situation were people support organ donation in the abstract to one where it is expected that UK citizens will agree to donation, when and if they can.

With nearly 20 million people on the NHS Organ Donor Register, it might appear that the problem is solved and there is no need for others to talk to their families and make this important decision. Few realise that although over half a million people die each year in the UK, less than 5,000 do so in circumstances where they can donate. Each potential donor is therefore incredibly precious and it is for this reason that we need every family to consider what they would do in these very difficult circumstances should they ever have to face such a question.

At present 45% of families refuse to allow their relative's organs to be used, often because they didn't know what their loved one wanted to happen. The UK's family refusal rate remains one of the highest in Europe. Some families are so shocked and grief stricken that they overrule their relatives intention, recorded on the NHS Organ Donor Register, to become an organ donor. This understandable reaction can only be avoided if people talk about their wishes whilst they are alive.

We need a revolution in consent so that individuals and their families are proud to donate, when and if they can. Otherwise, three people will continue to die needlessly every day.

NHSBT is co-ordinating a new strategy for the UK, following extensive consultation with partners and stakeholders, to build on the recommendations of the original Organ Donor Taskforce. We believe that it is possible for the UK to match world class performance in organ donation and transplantation and give hope to the thousands of people waiting for a transplant to save and improve their lives. The last five years have shown us that the NHS can respond to the challenge it is set. Now we need the public to recognise that without organ donation, there can be no transplantation and make a personal commitment to donate, if they are able to.

If you want to save and improve lives by donating your organs, add your name to the Organ Donor Register by calling 0300 123 2323, text SAVE 62323 or go to www.organdonation.nhs.uk and let your family and friends know so that they endorse your decision.

Around the Web

NHSBT - Organ Donation - Home

NHSBT - Organ Donation - How to register

NHSBT - Organ Donation - Join the register

NHS Organ Donation Campaign | Facebook

BBC News - Organ donation soars over past five years, says NHS ...

BBC News - UK organ donation 'rises by 50%'

Organ donation: drive to prevent families from overriding donor's wishes

We must work with families to reduce organ donation refusal rates