Would you give a kidney, rather than your heart, this Valentine's Day?

A new campaign launched today by NHS Blood and Transplant and partner charity, Give a Kidney, calls on people across the UK to consider transforming lives by donating a kidney to someone in need, be they a stranger, friend or loved one.

7th February 2017

A new campaign launched today by NHS Blood and Transplant and partner charity, Give a Kidney, calls on people across the UK to consider transforming lives by donating a kidney to someone in need, be they a stranger, friend or loved one.

Less than half (48%) of adults surveyed* recently by NHS Blood and Transplant were aware of living kidney donation.Ā  However, when they were subsequently asked whether they would consider becoming a kidney donor, the majority (61%) said they would.

Of those who would consider donating, almost half (49%) would consider donating to a family member while 1 in 5 (22%) would consider donating to a friend and 1 in 7 (14%) to a stranger.

As part of the campaign, comedian Alex Smith and composer Philip Pope, have created a tongue-in-cheek song, called 'Kidney-shaped Love'. The light-hearted music video set in a working men's club plays on Valentine's verse but carries an underlying serious message, to encourage people to find out more about transforming a life through living donation:

Here we go again buying gifts
For partners, lovers, friends with benefits
A cheesy photo in a heart-shaped frame
Pink furry handcuffs engraved with their name
Red roses, teddy bears they're all so cliche
I've got a better gift to give this Valentine's Day

My feelings can no longer be denied
Here is something from deep inside

I'd give you my heart
But I'd have to be dead
And I'm still very much alive
So please have my kidney instead...

Currently, almost 5,000 people are waiting for a kidney in the UK.Ā  This is more than the total number of people waiting for any other organ combined.

While the majority of kidney transplant patients receive an organ from a deceased donor, living kidney donors make possible one third of all kidney transplants carried out across the UK. Currently there is a shortage of donors, which means many people do not get the life-transforming transplant they need.

Lisa Burnapp, Lead Nurse for Living Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant said:

"Across the UK, more than 250 patients died last year waiting for a kidney transplant, due to a shortage of people willing to donate after their death or during their lifetime. However, living donation is highly successful, and thousands of people have had their lives transformed thanks to people being willing to give a kidney whilst they are alive to a family member, friend or complete stranger. We hope our campaign will prompt people to go to our website to find out more about donating a kidney and that some will go on to express their interest and start the assessment process."

Someone who knows what it is like to receive the gift of a kidney, is Helen Byrne, from the Wirral. Helen received a kidney from her friend Carol Armitage in November 2016.

Helen says: "Before the transplant I had 5% kidney function. I returned home with 60%! The surgery meant I could do so many things I couldn't do before - from little things like drinking cola for the first time in 17 years, eating a banana, drinking Horlicks, putting a sprinkle of salt on a boiled egg. But also bigger things. Not falling asleep every time I sit down to watch the TV. Not going to hospital for dialysis. Not being a burden to my loved ones. I am so grateful that Carol was prepared to do this for me."

The average length of time someone waits for a kidney transplant is over 2.5 years. However, the average wait for some ethnic groups and people for whom it is more difficult to find a compatible transplant is longer.

A third of people currently waiting for a kidney transplant across the UK are from a black or Asian background. The best match will often come from a donor from the same ethnic background and, although many are successfully transplanted from white donors, there is a particular need for people from these communities to consider donating their organs, either in death or during their lifetime.

- To find out more about donating a kidney as a living donor to a family member, friend or stranger, or to watch the 'Kidney-shaped love' video, visit: bit.ly/2leECWO

- Help spread the campaign #ShareYourSpare

- To register your commitment to donating your organs after your death, visit the Organ Donation website or call 0300 123 23 23. Please tell your family that you want to save lives as an organ donor and share your decision with your friends

To view the campaign music video, 'Kidney-shaped love' see: bit.ly/2leECWO


* Research conducted by Kantar Public. 1,099 interviews were conducted with adults (18+) in England. Fieldwork was conducted between 3rd and 5th January 2017.

For interviews with case studies and spokespeople, please contact Suzi Browne in the NHS Blood and Transplant press office on 01923 366844 or via suzanne.browne@nhsbt.nhs.uk

The NHS Blood and Transplant press office can also be contacted on 01923 367600 or pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk

For out of hours enquiries please call NHS Blood and Transplant's on call press officer on 0117 969 2444.

Notes to Editors
  • Until September 2006 living donation was limited to direct exchanges between family members and friends. Changes in the law that year - through the Human Tissue Act - allowed the introduction of donor sharing scheme and non-directed altruistic donation. Hospitals and the Human Tissue Authority carefully assess all donors and donation only goes ahead if it safe to do so. There is a small risk to donors. Living donation is well regulated and potential donors are thoroughly screened.
  • An altruistic kidney donor can choose to donate his or her kidney to a patient in the UK living kidney sharing scheme. Their recipient will be registered in the scheme with a donor, usually a friend or relative, who cannot donate directly to him/her - usually because the pair are incompatible by blood group or HLA (tissue) type or would prefer a closer HLA match to one another. The donor for recipient one will then donate to recipient two and, in longer chains, in turn, the donor for recipient two donates to a person on the national transplant waiting list. This means the original altruistic donor's gift creates the opportunity for up to three transplants. Organs for transplant need to be compatible by blood group and HLA (tissue) type to have the best chance of success.
  • Since the law change to allow non-directed altruistic donation, over 500 people have donated a kidney during their life to someone anonymously via the National Transplant list. Many thousands of people have donated a kidney to a relative,friend or someone they know.
NHS Blood and Transplant
  • NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We are responsible for ensuring a safe and efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England. We are also the organ donation organisation for the UK and are responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • We are an essential part of the NHS and take pride in saving and improving lives by making the most of every voluntary donation, from blood and organs to tissues and stem cells.
  • Our work would not be possible without our donors - ordinary people doing extraordinary things by saving and improving the lives of others..
  • The register records your decision on whether you want to donate your organs and/or tissue after your death to save and improve the lives of others. It is used by authorised medical staff to establish whether someone has registered an organ donation decision.
  • Letting your family know your organ donation decision will make it much easier for them to support what you want.
  • Every day across the UK around three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren't enough organ donors. We need more people to agree to organ donation
  • Anyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register, age and medical conditions are not necessarily a barrier to donation.
  • One donor can save or transform up to nine lives through organ donation and transform even more by donating tissue.
  • There is a particular need for more black and Asian organ donors. Patients from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are over-represented on the transplant waiting list. More than a quarter (26%) of those on the waiting list are Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic while a 1/3 of people on the kidney waiting list are from these communities. People from Black and Asian communities have a higher incidence of conditions such as diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis, making them more likely to need a transplant. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic patients make up a third of the active kidney transplant waiting list. Although some are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, for many the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic donors are needed to improve the chances of these patients getting the kidney transplant they need.
  • Whilst there may be some individual concerns relating to religious or cultural practices, all the major religions support organ donation.