News Release

Call for everyone in the UK to discuss organ donation as the number of deceased organ donors in the UK drops for the first time in more than a decade

20 July 2015


2014/15 saw more than 4,400 (4,431) people in the UK have their lives saved or improved by an organ transplant but the number of people that donated organs has fallen for the first time in 11 years.

New statistics released today in the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15 shows the number of transplants has decreased from 4,655 in 2013/14 to 4,431 in 2014/15. This is a 5% decrease on last year and means that 224 fewer people received an organ transplant.

Of the transplants carried out, 1,092 were made possible by living donors who gave a kidney or part of their liver, while 3,339 patients benefitted from organs donated after death.

The reason for the fall in donor and transplant numbers is twofold:

  • Fewer people died in circumstances where they could donate last year (potential donors 8,157 in 2013/14 compared to 7,450 in 2014/15 representing a decrease of 8.7%)
  • There has been no improvement in the consent/authorisation rate which remains stubbornly below 60%.

NHS Blood and Transplant, the organisation that published the report and leads organ donation across the UK, is calling for everyone in the UK to discuss organ donation and decide what they would do if called on to donate. If there are fewer potential donors then gaining consent/authorisation from every one is even more important. The consent/authorisation rate has remained stubbornly below 60%. Unless there is a revolution in attitudes to organ donation people waiting for a transplant will continue to die needlessly.

Figures published in the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15 reveal that families are much more likely to agree to donation going ahead if they know it is what their loved one wanted. Last year, nearly nine out of ten families said yes when their loved one's decision to donate was known, for example either via the NHS Organ Donor Register or via a previous discussion with them about organ donation. But even when their decision to donate was known, 120 families felt unable to honour their loved one's decision to donate, denying them their dying wish to save others after their death.

NHS Blood and Transplant's Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, Sally Johnson, said:

"We are truly grateful to the families of the 1,282 deceased donors and to each of the 1,092 living donors who made transplants possible last year. Their donations allowed over 4,400 people to get the organ transplant they've been waiting for to save or vastly improve their lives.

"We have always known that because the opportunities to donate are so small, it is essential to increase the number of people who say yes to organ donation. If the pool of potential donors is reduced then this is even more important.

"We understand that families are expected to consider donation in their darkest hour. So we would remind everyone to tell those closest to you now if you want to donate your organs - and then record that decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Should the time come, your family will know you want to donate your organs to help to save others.

"The decreases we can see across all types of organ transplant will lead to more deaths if we do not reverse this trend going forward. We know there is a combination of reasons for the decreases, but we cannot hope to save more lives unless UK citizens talk about organ donation with their families and agree to donate if ever they are asked."

In 2013, the UK Governments and NHS Blood and Transplant launched a seven year organ donation and transplantation strategy Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020. The strategy's aim is to match world-class performance in organ donation and transplantation so that more lives can be saved in the UK. To view or download the strategy go to: http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/to2020/

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 2323.

The full Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15 can be viewed via: http://www.odt.nhs.uk/uk-transplant-registry/annual-activity-report/

ENDS

For more information about the report, please contact Pauline O'Brien in the NHS Blood and Transplant Press Office on 01923 367669 or via pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk or 01923 367600.

For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

Key stats from the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15 include:

  • 58% of families approached about donation in 2014/15 gave the go-ahead for donation
  • The consent/authorisation rate was 88.5% when a patient's wish to donate was known by any method, for example via the NHS Organ Donor Register, a conversation with their family, inclusion in a will etc
  • 43% of the 1,282 deceased organ donors last year were on the NHS Organ Donor Register
  • At the end of March 2015, there were 6,943 patients on the transplant waiting list with a further 3,375 temporarily suspended from the list.
  • 3,575 patients had their sight restored through a cornea transplant (representing a fall of 3%).

Notes to editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the whole of the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • 21.1 million people in the UK have already signed onto the NHS Organ Donor Register. These people have joined the Register to record their decision to donate organs and/or tissue after their death for transplantation. This information is used by authorised medical staff to establish whether a person wanted to donate. A newly build ODR has just been launched in the UK. This also gives registrants the option to register a decision not to donate their organs or to nominate others to make the decision for them after their death.
  • It's simple to join the ODR by:
    • going to www.organdonation.nhs.uk
    • ringing 0300 123 23 23
  • Anyone can register on the ODR. Age isn't a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. People in their 70s and 80s have become donors and saved many lives.
  • One donor can save or transform up to 9 lives and many more can be helped through the donation of tissues.

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