Department of Health and Social Care
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Fifty Per Cent increase in organ donation possible within five years

Fifty Per Cent increase in organ donation possible within five years

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH News Release issued by The Government News Network on 16 January 2008

The Government today announced it would back the recommendations of the Organ Donation Taskforce, which could see a 50 per cent increase in organ donation in the UK within five years - resulting in an additional 1,200 transplants a year and saving thousands of lives. The Taskforce, set up to examine how organ donation and transplant rates can be improved, today published its report 'Organs for Transplants'.

The report proposes a radical shift from existing arrangements, recommending the recruitment of around 100 extra donor transplant coordinators to work with hospitals and guide and support bereaved families through the donation process. These extra front line staff and existing coordinators would, after consultation with the relevant parties, be employed centrally by NHS Blood and Transplant rather than individual Trusts, which would mean an end to varied employment, and training practices across the country. Together with other measures to improve donor coordination services this could result in a 10% increase in the consent rate for donation.

In addition, a new strengthened network of dedicated organ retrieval teams would also be established and be available 24 hours a day, working closely with the critical care teams in hospital to retrieve safe high quality organs for transplant across the UK.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said:

"Donating an organ is the greatest gift anyone can give. Last year around 2,400 people in the UK benefited from an organ transplant, but more than 1000 people die every year waiting for a transplant. I am determined that we do all we can to increase levels of donation and make a difference to as many patients as possible.

"These recommendations are an essential first step to improve the systems supporting organ donation. The taskforce will now go on to consider the important issue of presumed consent and the role that it could play in increasing organ donation."

Health Minister Ann Keen said: "The Taskforce tell us that, if the recommendations in today's report are implemented, there is the potential to increase the number of organ transplants by an additional 1,200 a year.

"If we are able to save these lives we must take action now across the UK. I am pleased that the recommendations have the backing of the Health Ministers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and that we will work together to support families and donors to implement them"

The report has fourteen recommendations in total which include encouraging the NHS 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.

Elisabeth Buggins, the chair of the Organ Donation taskforce said:

"90% of the UK population supports organ donation and transplantation in principle, but too many people are dying because donation too often, is not made possible in practice. "The UK has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in Europe and it was in recognition of this that the taskforce was created.

"This work has been amongst the most rewarding of my professional life. I am grateful to fellow Taskforce members for the dedication and commitment they have shown as well as the international advisers who helped us to develop our recommendations. "Our recommendations are not only the right thing to do; they also make sound economic sense. They have the potential to save many more lives as well as making best use of NHS funding by reducing dialysis costs for people with kidney failure.

"I am delighted that the Government has accepted all of the recommendations. While these will be challenging to deliver, the rewards are significant. "This is a great opportunity to save more lives every year - I hope the NHS and the general public will seize it with both hands."

The Government confirmed £11 million of funding to support the recommendations in the report next year with more to follow. Improving organ donation not only saves lives but also saves valuable resources. The average cost for dialysis is approximately £25,300 pa compared with an initial cost of £45,900 for a transplant followed by annual maintenance costs of £7,100 pa. Over the next 10 years we expect that there could be about an extra 5,400 kidney transplants. This could give NHS savings of over £500 million.

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 http://www.uktransplant.org.uk

5. UK Transplant is the NHS organisation responsible for matching and allocating donated organs. It is part of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), a Special Health Authority within the NHS that manages the National Blood Service and transplants.

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 per cent of the population) on the register.

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.

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