Tuesday 21 July 2015

The Drop in Donors: What the organ donation statistics tell us

Yesterday NHSBT published figures revealing the first overall drop in organ donation in the UK for more than a decade. Public Affairs Manager Darren O’ Keefe talks about what these figures tell us about soft opt-out, public attitudes and the need to talk to your family and friends about your wishes.

New statistics released by NHS Blood and Transplant yesterday for 2014/15 show a 5% decrease on organ donation across the UK since 2013/14. This is the first decrease in 11 years, showing there is no room for complacency when it comes to ensuring as many people as possible receive this amazing gift of life.

Interestingly, the only nation that has not shown a decrease in donations is Wales, where the move to soft opt-out for organ donation in December this year has been preceded by years of high-profile debate about organ donation. The lesson here is that we must keep people talking about organ donation and sharing their wishes to donate with their families. Especially given that figures show family consent rates are below 60% and families are much more likely to agree to donation going ahead if they know it is what their loved one wanted.

The subject of soft opt-out stimulates conversation and it’s a policy we support. We are encouraged to see Wales take the lead on it and Northern Ireland and Scotland exploring legislation on the issue. However, it is not acceptable to "wait and see" what happens in Wales; this will take years – years that the many people with cystic fibrosis and other conditions across the UK waiting for a donor just don't have. This is why we will continue to support the soft opt-out legislation in Northern Ireland and Scotland, as well as urging England to explore the issue as well.

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust is working tirelessly to ensure that people with cystic fibrosis are able to receive the lung transplant they may come to depend on. We have made a great deal of progress through the ‘Hope for More’ campaign to ensure the most is made of the donated lungs that are already available. This work risks being undermined if donation rates fall, so please sign up to the organ donation register if you haven’t already, make sure you share your decision, and encourage others to the do the same.

Organ donation features in tonight's BBC Two documentary on Great Ormond Street. Focusing on children who need double lung-transplants, tonight's epidsode those with cystic fibrosis. Watch it live on BBC Two, 9pm or catch up on BBCiPlayer