Foreign private patients pay tens of thousands of pounds for livers donated to the NHSKing's College NHS Foundation Trust carried out 19 operations in 2 yearsIt is believed the trust has been paid around 1m for the operationsThe organs have been given to fee paying non EU patients
There are currently 550 NHS patients awaiting a life saving transplant

By
Sophie Borland

PUBLISHED:

11:44 GMT, 24 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:15 GMT, 25 March 2013

Scarce donor organs meant for NHS patients are being sold to wealthy foreigners for tens of thousands of pounds.

A leading hospital has confirmed that 19 private overseas patients bought donated livers in the past two years.

Such organs are in short supply. Of the 550 NHS patients waiting for a liver, one in six is expected to die before they can get a transplant.

Surgeons at King's College NHS Foundation Trust have carried out 19 operations in the past two year into patients from Greece, Cyprus, Kuwait, Libya and Dubai

Surgeons at King's College NHS Foundation Trust have carried out 19 operations in the past two year into patients from Greece, Cyprus, Kuwait, Libya and Dubai

But since 2011, King’s College Hospital in London has given livers to patients from Greece, Cyprus, Kuwait, Libya and Dubai.

The trust is likely to have been paid
around 1million for all the transplants, but it refused to disclose
how much it received for them individually.

Although experts have condoned the
practice as ‘morally wrong’, it is not illegal because the Government
does not believe it prevents NHS patients from having transplants.

Derek Manas, a consultant transplant surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and also a member of the liver advisory panel said the private transplants were wrong

Derek Manas, a consultant transplant surgeon at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and also a member of the liver advisory panel said the private transplants were wrong

The Department of Health has refused
to implement a ban – ignoring the advice of a specially commissioned
taskforce – and claims organ donations are increasing.

But senior doctors at other hospitals which do not sell organs privately say NHS patients must be given priority.

Simon Bramhall, a consultant
transplant surgeon at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation
Trust, said: ‘There are not enough donors and too many NHS-entitled
recipients to give the organs away.’

Professor Derek Manas, who holds the
same position at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘To say
“this liver is not usable for anyone in this country, I am going to
give it to someone from another country” – that is unacceptable.’

Gill McLachlan, a 46-year-old mother
from Bolton, suffers from a condition that causes her immune system to
attack her liver. She has been on a transplant waiting list since 2010.
‘Organs are a gift from some-body and it is the most fantastic gift,’
she said.

‘Private [transplants] should not be brought into it.

‘When you first get put on the list
you are told to pack a bag because it could be tonight. My bag has been
packed for two and a half years.’

Around 9,000 Britons need a transplant but a shortage of donors means that only 3,000 operations can be performed each year.

Surgeons estimate that 18 per cent of
patients waiting for a replacement organ will die before they receive
one. In 2009 the Department of Health commissioned the Organ Donations
Taskforce to review the practice of hospitals selling organs privately.

It concluded that ‘financial gain from the transplant of donated organs feels morally wrong’ and recommended an outright ban.

While patients from European
countries are entitled to donated organs on the NHS if they are a
suitable match, those from outside the continent are only allowed to buy
NHS organs if they are not wanted by patients in Britain.

This is usually because doctors have decided the organs are too old or damaged to be of much benefit.

But experts are concerned that doctors are ‘misjudging’ the quality, meaning very good organs are being sold abroad.

At present, King’s College Hospital is the only NHS trust which has admitted to selling organs.
A spokesman for the trust said it complies with the ‘rules and
regulations relating to liver transplant surgery and the allocation of
organs’.

A Department of Health spokesman said
having a transplant privately ‘in no way means getting an organ more
quickly’ and claimed there is ‘no evidence they stop NHS patients having
transplants or reduce public confidence in donating’.