Skip the NI Direct Bar
Skip navigation

Organ donations increase by 50% possible in five years

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

An Organ Donation Taskforce will today tell the Government that a 50% increase in organ donation is achievable in the UK within five years. This could mean an additional 1,200 transplants taking place a year saving the lives of thousands more patients.

In its report, ‘Organs for Transplants’, A Report from the Organ Donation Taskforce’, the Taskforce makes 14 recommendations to Government about how organ donation and transplant rates may be improved.

Local Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey, launching the recommendations for Northern Ireland, commented: “It is vitally important that we do all we can to increase the number of transplants which can take place. In Northern Ireland alone we have over 300 people waiting for a transplant and every year people die while waiting.

“These UK wide recommendations should go a long way to increasing the supply of donor organs to meet demand.”

The Taskforce’s Report proposes a radical shift from existing arrangements by recommending the employment of around 100 extra donor transplant coordinators to work with hospitals and families to increase the number of organ donors. These extra front line staff and existing coordinators will be employed centrally by NHS Blood and Transplant. A strengthened network of dedicated Organ Retrieval Teams will also be established to ensure the retrieval of safe and high quality organs from donors across the UK.

The report’s recommendations include employing more donor transplant coordinators as well as the strengthened network of dedicated organ retrieval teams available 24 hours a day. The health service will also be encouraged to make organ donation a usual rather than unusual event by developing local organ donation policies with identified clinical donor leads or donation committees. Different ways of recognising the very special gift made by individual organ donors and their families will also be considered.

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Organ Donation taskforce was established by the Government in 2006 to identify barriers to organ donation. The Taskforce is comprised of 20 members including patients, transplant surgeons, critical care specialists, donor transplant co-ordinators, NHS managers and representatives from the media, clinical ethics, diversity issues and charities. In developing its recommendations the taskforce consulted a number of experts, including those from Spain, USA and Australia.
  2. The Taskforce was asked to identify barriers to organ donation, explore current issues that might have a bearing on donation rates, and recommend action to be taken to increase organ donation within current legal frameworks. The Report published today contains those recommendations.
  3. In September 2007, following the publication of the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report which recommended a move to presumed consent for organ donation, the Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson asked the Taskforce to look at the issue of presumed consent as a second piece of work. The issue of presumed consent is not included in today’s report. A separate report will follow in the summer.
  4. Currently, more than 8,000 people in the UK need an organ transplant, rising by about 8% a year. At the end of March 2007, 7,219 patients were listed as actively waiting for a transplant. More information is available on In Northern Ireland over 300 people are waiting for a transplant.
  5. 'NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), a Special Health Authority within the NHS that manages the National Blood Service and UK Transplant. As such it is the NHS organisation responsible for matching and allocating donated organs. The Organ Donation Organisation will sit within NHS Blood and Transplant.'
  6. The NHS Organ Donor Register is a computerised database used to identify those who have registered and indicated that they wish to be organ and/or tissue donors in the event of their death. There are currently nearly 15 million people (almost 25% of the population) on the register. There are currently 361,984 Northern Ireland people registered – this equates to 21% of the population (up from 9% in 2003).
  7. The Human Tissue Act 2004 states that no organs and tissue for transplantation can be taken without the consent of the deceased or their relatives.
  8. The projected increase in transplant figures is based on 50% increase in organ donation numbers, not 50% increase in organ transplants.
  9. For press enquiries please contact Sarah Williams at the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 90522841 or 07791 149246. Outside office hours, please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager Number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.

Summary of recommendations

Recommendation 1

  • A UK-wide Organ Donation Organisation should be established.

Recommendation 2

  • The establishment of the Organ Donation Organisation should be the responsibility of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

Recommendation 3

  • Urgent attention is required to resolve outstanding legal, ethical and professional issues in order to ensure that all clinicians are supported and are able to work within a clear and unambiguous framework of good practice. Additionally, an independent UK-wide Donation Ethics Group should be established.

Recommendation 4

  • All parts of the NHS must embrace organ donation as a usual, not an unusual event. Local policies, constructed around national guidelines, should be put in place. Discussions about donation should be part of all end-of-life care, when appropriate. Each Trust should have an identified Clinical Donation Champion and a Trust Donation Committee to help achieve this.

Recommendation 5

  • Minimum notification criteria for potential organ donors should be introduced on a UK-wide basis. These criteria should be reviewed after 12 months in the light of evidence of their effect, and the comparative impact of more detailed criteria should also be assessed.

Recommendation 6

  • Donation activity in all Trusts should be monitored. Rates of potential donor identification, referral, approach to the family and consent to donation should be reported. The Trust Donation Committee should report to the Trust Board through the Clinical Governance process and the Medical Director, and the reports should be part of the assessment of Trusts through the relevant healthcare regulator. Benchmark data from other Trusts should be made available.

Recommendation 7

  • Brain stem death testing should be carried out in all patients where brain stem death is a likely diagnosis even if organ donation is an unlikely outcome.

Recommendation 8

  • Financial disincentives to Trusts facilitating donation should be removed through the development and introduction of appropriate reimbursement.

Recommendation 9

  • The current network of donor transplant co-ordinators should be expanded and strengthened through central employment by a UK-wide Organ Donation Organisation. Additional co-ordinators, embedded within critical care areas, should be employed to ensure a comprehensive highly skilled, specialised and robust service. There should be a close and defined collaboration between donor co-ordinators, clinical staff and Trust Donation Champions. Electronic on-line donor registration and organ offering systems should be developed.

Recommendation 10

  • A UK-wide network of dedicated Organ Retrieval Teams should be established to ensure timely, high quality organ removal from all heartbeating and non-heartbeating donors. The Organ Donation Organisation should be responsible from commissioning the retrieval teams and for audit and performance management.

Recommendation 11

  • All clinical staff likely to be involved in the treatment of potential organ donors should receive mandatory training in the principles of donation. There should also be regular update training.

Recommendation 12

  • Appropriate ways should be identified of personally and publicly recognising individual organ donors, where desired. These may include national memorials, local initiatives and personal follow-up to donor families.

Recommendations 13

  • There is an urgent requirement to identify and implement the most effective methods through which organ donation and the “gift of life” can be promoted to the general public, and specifically to the BME population. Research should be commissioned through Department of Health Research and Development funding.

Recommendation 14

  • The Department of Health and the Ministry of Justice should develop formal guidelines for coroners concerning organ donation.

Further information can be obtained at Government News Network websitelink to external website