Skip the NI Direct Bar
Skip navigation

Minister announces next steps in drive to increase organ donation

Health Minister Edwin Poots today announced that a major public information campaign would be launched to increase organ donation.
Monday, 29 April 2013

He also confirmed that the public will be asked their views on ways to maximise the organs available including changing to an opt-out system.

He said: “My overriding aim is to increase organ donation. This can be aided by increasing public support for organ donation so that, when the time comes, all of us can expect to be asked to donate the organs of our family members to help others to enjoy the gift of life. I want organ donation to be seen as the norm in our society. Public understanding is critical in making this happen and that is why I have asked the Public Health Agency (PHA) to organise a public information campaign to enhance awareness and understanding and encourage everyone to take action to support organ donation.”

Speaking ahead of an All-Party Group meeting on organ donation in Stormont where his officials were due to update MLAs on the initiative, Mr Poots said that the public in Northern Ireland will also get the opportunity to have its say on boosting donation rates.

He said: “To prepare for this campaign, a public engagement programme will be carried out to increase our understanding of the key factors which need to be addressed to ensure an increase in the availability of organs for transplantation. This will inform future action to promote organ donation in Northern Ireland, including legislation, if required. I will ask the public and those who are most closely involved in promoting organ donation, including service providers, charities and donor families, for their views on an opt out system and other measures directed at achieving this aim.”

The Minister said he had been encouraged by the significant progress that had been made in increasing organ donation over the past five years in Northern Ireland and the significant health benefits that this can bring to recipients of donated organs, but said that this had only reinforced his view that we can do much more to further increase the number of donated organs.

He said: “My clear intention is to encourage discussion within families, among groups of friends, within the education sector and within communities about the importance of choosing to donate. I want people to think about what organ donation means for them and their loved ones and for the people whose lives they could save. I am convinced that we can build on existing public support for organ donation and increase this so that more families will consent to make organs available for transplantation. In this way, the whole community can contribute to reducing the number of people on the waiting list for transplants and save lives.”

As well as planning a public information campaign and surveying public opinion on increasing donor rates, Mr Poots has also asked the PHA to bring together the views of key stakeholders and to report to him regularly.

Notes to editors:

1. Mr Poots, accompanied First Minister Rt Hon Peter D. Robinson MLA and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA on a visit to Regional Nephrology and Transplant Service of the Belfast City Hospital announced on 5 February 2013 that his Department would launch an initiative to increase organ donation in Northern Ireland.

2. The Minister has asked the PHA to:

  • survey public opinion across Northern Ireland to ask the public how they believe increased consent for organ donation can be achieved;
  • conduct focus group meetings with representatives from transplant related charities, donor families, those on the waiting list and the health service community, in order to bring together the views of these important stakeholders; and,
  • develop a public information campaign to build awareness and encourage everyone to become donors and discuss their wishes with family and friends.

3. The Minister has asked the PHA to report regularly on the implementation of this initiative so he can provide updates for the Assembly.

4. For photographs and media queries about this press release to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0571 or out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.