Organ donation rises by 50% in just five years, helping a third more people have life-saving transplantsThere were 1,200 new donors in the last year alone, new figures show
But doctors say more work still needs to be done to further boost donation7,300 Britons need an organ transplant and three die each day waitingCampaigners say key problem is relatives overriding the wishes of deceased

PUBLISHED:

11:16 GMT, 11 April 2013

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UPDATED:

12:44 GMT, 11 April 2013

Organ donation has shot up by a staggering 50 per cent within the past five years.

Since April last year, more than 1,200 people in the UK have donated organs, helping to transform 3,100 lives, according to NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

However, doctors are keen to state that this success should not be seen as an excuse for complacency.

They say that more work needs to be done, as many families still refuse to consider the possibility of organ donation when a loved one has died.

Giving and taking: The number of organs being donated is at an all time high

Giving and taking: The number of organs being donated is at an all time high

There are currently 7,300 patients on the transplant waiting list and 6,000 of those are waiting for new kidneys.

Nearly every donor can provide at least one kidney and usually they will be able to provide two. Each day three Britons die waiting for an organ.

The sharp rise in donation is largely due to the creation of a network of specialist nurses who support bereaved families and discuss the possibility of organ donation with them.

Specialist nurses are one of a number of recommendations made in 2008 by the Organ Donation Taskforce, following a decade of almost no increase in the number of donated organs.

The taskforce also pushed for the creation of specialist organ retrieval teams and wider promotion and campaigning around the importance of organ donation.

These recommendations have led to a sharp increase in organ donors across the UK – a rise of 49 per cent rise in England, of 16 per cent in Wales, of 74 per cent increase in Scotland and an astounding 82 per cent increase in Northern Ireland.

Consequently there has been a 31 per cent boost in the number of people receiving a life-saving or enhancing organ transplant since 2008.

‘This is an outstanding achievement that few thought possible at the time this ambition was set,’ said Bill Fullagar, chairman of NHSBT.

Forward thinking: More people are able to benefit from new organs

Forward thinking: More people are able to benefit from new organs

‘It is the result of the hard work and dedication of staff in hospitals and communities across the country.

‘We must also share our heartfelt thanks with every family who, at a great time of sadness, supported their loves one's wish to donate their organs and transform the lives of up to nine other people.’

Anthony Warrens, Professor of Renal Transplantation Surgery at Barts Health NHS Trust and the Royal London Hospital and president of the British Transplantation Society, praised the NHSBT for the increase in organ donors.

‘There can be few greater achievements than to have given life to those who were on the verge of death – but that is the reality of this achievement,’ said Prof Warrens.

‘Data show that an individual who donates his or her organs after death gives the recipients an aggregate of an additional 56 years of life. And despite the sadness of the moment, this usually becomes a major comfort to bereaved families as time passes.’

Dr Paul Murphy, an intensive care consultant in Leeds and NHSBT's national lead for organ donation, called the dramatic donation increase a ‘landmark event in donation and transplantation for the UK’.

‘It is testament to the changes we have made at every level in hospitals to deliver this, to the commitment of critical care and emergency department staff to donation, and most of all to the generosity of donors and their families,’ he said.

'‘But we can and must do more, because patients continue to die needlessly waiting for an organ transplant.

‘Now we have the foundation to push on and create a donation and transplantation service that we can be proud of. Too many families continue to say no, sometimes even overturning their loved one's commitment to donate after death.’

Despite the increase in organ donors, the numbers of families refusing to grant consent remains among the highest in Europe, and NHSBT is calling for more to be done.

In addition to this, lack of organ donation awareness amongst the black and Asian community particularly needs to targeted, according to the NHSBT.

Despite being three times more likely to need a transplant, only three per cent of this section of the population is on the organ donation register.
Sally Johnson, NHSBT's director of organ donation and transplantation, said: ‘Although I am delighted that we have made such big advances in the UK, we can and must do more.

‘We need a transformation in donor and family consent to organ donation because the UK's family refusal rate remains one of the highest in Europe.

‘Without that, there is only a limited amount the NHS can do to offer further hope to those on the waiting list for an organ transplant.’

A new strategy is to be launched this summer that will build on the 2008 recommendations of the Organ Donor Taskforce and encourage more people to donate organs.

To register for organ donation visit NHSBT Donation