- Change in law to optout is welcomed but more to do
- Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact
- 5 year high in the transplant waiting list
- Focus on capacity and staff and public education
The Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act is a hugely important step forward for patients in England, helping work towards a situation where no one dies waiting for an organ. It was enacted on 20 May 2020. It changes the default so that everyone is a donor unless they choose to opt out. We at Kidney Care UK would like to thank everyone who has been generous enough to tell their story; Organ Donation Week is a great opportunity to do that. This year, Organ Donation Week is mostly online, but it’s worth reminding ourselves of the various events we ran in Parliament with our colleagues at NHSBT in recent years, where many of you told your stories and helped to change the law in England to an opt-out system.
We welcome the commitment to the similar law change in Scotland and the commitment recently given in Northern Ireland towards an opt out approach there. Throughout the law change campaign, we have said that opt-out is the right thing to do, but not the only thing to do. In order for the new law to be a success public and staff education is vital, alongside adequate capacity in the NHS to perform transplantation. All of this has been affected by the pandemic where both the transplant programme and the opportunities to really engage with people were restricted. We will continue to press for education and adequate capacity and support this work so that in time the full benefit of the law change can be felt.
A Parliamentary Question we asked revealed the numbers of transplants which would normally have happened did not go ahead.
The estimated number of transplants that did not go ahead in the first five months of 2020 are shown in the following table:
This means that there are more people who will have had to start dialysis and we are researching those figures. Many were suspended from the waiting list and while they are now slowly being re-added we are at a 5 year high for those waiting for a transplant, with 500 more people waiting than at this time last year. While the default is that everyone is assumed to be a donor unless they have chosen to opt out in life it is as important as ever to encourage people to have that conversation about organ donation as families will continue to be involved in any donation. NHS Blood and Transplant estimate that 2,500 transplant opportunities were missed last year, with 835 families declining to donate their loved one’s organs. While one person continues to die every day in need of a transplant, we will continue our work with you to increase transplantation.
The transplant programme is now restarted everywhere, and the service is rebuilding.
Kidney surgeon Mr Rajesh Sivaprakasam from the Royal London Hospital has written us a blog for Organ Donation Week on restarting transplant services, featuring the words of Joe and Francis, who recently had a living donation.
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Kidney transplant surgeon at Royal London Hospital, Rajesh Sivaprakasam on restarting transplant services.