New figures published today by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) in the annual Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report show that last year, 1,600 people in the UK donated their organs after they died; saving or improving the lives of 3,941 transplant recipients.
This achievement is particularly remarkable given that figures now show that just 5,815 people died in circumstances where organ donation is possible; a 4% drop and 225 fewer eligible donors than in 2017/18. With fewer eligible donors, it is more important than ever to ensure that everyone who is able and wants to donate their organs after they have died is given the opportunity.
The increase in the number of organ donors was made possible thanks to: more families agreeing to support donation, fewer families refusing to support their relative’s decision to donate and an increased referral rate of potential donors by medical staff to organ donation teams.
Despite the rise in donations, the overall number of transplants was slightly down, with 87 fewer organ transplants taking place than the previous year (3,951 in 2018/19 compared to 4,038 in 2017/18). The reasons for this decrease are complex and still being fully explored by the organ donation and transplantation community, however changing donor characteristics may play a part. The data shows for every 10 donors, there was one fewer transplantable (and in turn, transplanted) organ than last year.
Sadly, in 2018/19, 400 people died while waiting for their call and a further 777 were removed due to deteriorating health. Many of these would have died shortly afterwards. Currently over 6,000 people are still waiting for a transplant.
Wales now has the highest consent rate of all the UK nations, now 77%, up from 58% in 2015. It is hoped that once the law change comes into force in both England and Scotland, and as awareness of organ donation is heightened in the public consciousness, we will see similar increases across both these countries.
Paul Bristow, Acting Chief Executive of Kidney Care UK, said: “The latest data from NHS Blood and Transplant shows that when it comes to improving outcomes for kidney patients we must not be complacent. Sadly, people continue to die every single day in need of a transplant. There has been lots of publicity around organ donation over the last 18 months and we are pleased that the law is changing in England and in Scotland next year. However, we need to remember that changing the law alone is not just a silver bullet. It is vital that we continue to build awareness, provide education and invest in the resources and capacity in the transplant system to ensure that many more lives are saved and transformed. Our thanks to amazing organ donors and their families for enabling the lives of others to be transformed.”
Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “No lifesaving transplant would be possible without the generosity of every donor and their families, who give their support and say ‘yes’ to organ donation. It is testament to the courage of these donors and their families, as well as the dedication of all the clinical staff involved, that we have been able to save and transform as many lives as we have this year.
“The reduction in the number of people dying in circumstances where they are able to donate, means that we need to continue to explore ways to improve the donation and transplant process. We are utilising new techniques and technologies to ensure that donated organs are in the very best possible condition for transplant and are working to increase awareness and understanding of organ donation and the law change across society with the aim that no opportunity for donation is missed.
“Donors and their families give the most precious gift of life. We owe it to them, as well as those waiting for a transplant, to ensure their precious gift is honoured and that we make the most of every opportunity to save and improve lives.”
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