The greatest gift this Christmas could be saving a life

NHS Blood and Transplant calls on families to talk about organ donation over the festive season.

15 December 2021

As Christmas approaches NHS Blood and Transplant is calling on families to talk about organ donation and register their decision to help save lives.

Two people discussing their organ donation decisionWith some families hoping to get together for Christmas for the first time since the pandemic began, NHS Blood and Transplant is urging people to take a moment during the celebrations to talk about their organ donation decision and to leave their family members certain of what they want to happen.

There are currently 6,094 people (1), including more than 200 children, awaiting the life-saving gift of an organ transplant in the UK and their lives could be saved or significantly improved if a donor is found. Yet every day across the UK someone dies in need of an organ transplant.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHSBT, says:

“Wherever and however people plan to spend this Christmas we hope that everyone will be able to enjoy the festivities and spend some much needed time with family and friends.

“For many thousands of people across the country, the only reason that they are able to enjoy a happy and healthy Christmas is thanks to the generosity of a donor and their family who so selflessly chose to give the gift of life. However, there are still thousands of people who are still desperately hoping and waiting for the transplant that will transform their life.

“Please take a moment this Christmas to let your family know your organ donation decision. Those conversations could help save the lives of people currently spending their Christmas waiting for a transplant.”

Even though the law around organ donation has now moved to an opt out system across England, Wales, and Scotland, many are still not aware that families will still always be consulted before organ donation goes ahead.

While families are more likely, and find it easier, to support donation when they already know it is what their loved one wanted, only 42% of the UK population have registered their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register and just 37% say that they have shared their organ donation decision with their family.

Anthony Clarkson adds, “We know that for many thousands of people across the UK the greatest gift they could receive this year will be a phone call telling them that a donor has been found for them. Please let your family know your organ donation decision and leave them certain of your decision.”

For more information, or to register your organ donation decision, please visit the organ donation website or call 0300 123 23 23. NHS app users can also use the service to record, check or update their organ donation decision.


  1. The number of people currently waiting for a transplant (as at the 25th November 2021) is 6,094, including 205 children. This number is expected to rise.
    Official waiting list figures are currently artificially lower, due to the suspension of some patients from the waiting list due to the risks of being immuno-suppressed during the pandemic compared to the ability to continue managing their condition and not going ahead with a transplant at this time.
    For the most urgent transplants, liver, lung and heart, the waiting lists figures are increasing as fewer transplants are taking place, so fewer patients are moving off the list. The most urgent patients are being prioritised and we are working hard to get them the transplants they need if it is safe to do so.
    We predict that once active waiting lists are fully restored, that we will see numbers in the region of 7,000 people in need of transplant across the UK.