Blood donation

NHS Blood and Transplant launch new strategy

NHS Blood and Transplant launched The Organ Donation and Transplantation: Meeting the Need strategy on Tuesday, setting out their aims for the next 10 years. One of the main targets is to increase the number of organ donations and transplantation rates. The agenda in the strategy also looks at ways to use digital technology as a way to increase organ donations and transplant rates.

It marks the first time that deceased and living organ donations have been put together in the same strategy. The most recent strategies were the Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020, and the Living Donor Kidney Transplantation 2020 strategy, launched in 2013/14.

Following the release of these strategies, the number of donors increased, as did the organs transplanted. However, the number of organs transplanted did not increase by the same rate as donors. This is largely due to most organ transplants not being at the desired quality. Other issues which make the organs unsuitable include, the average age of donors increasing, and lifestyle factors.

Betsy Bassis, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant said: “This new strategy sets out our ambitions to be world leaders in organ donation and transplantation.

“We aim to balance the evolution of current best practice with a revolution in new technologies and research to deliver real improvements for people in need of a transplant.

“Some initiatives from the previous strategies will continue, whilst we look to implement new ones with the potential to increase the numbers of both living and deceased donations.”

In 2020, a fundamental change to the organ donation law in England took place, making the system an ‘opt out’ service. It is hoped that in the areas where the legislation is in place, that there will be a gradual increase in the rates – to an overall average of 80% in the UK, in the first five years of this strategy.

Another key focus of the strategy is on diversity and inclusion, with recent surveys showing that families from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds were not as likely to discuss organ donations, and much more likely to decline when offered the opportunity to donate.

NHS Blood and Transplant are working with charities, stakeholders, community groups, and clinical teams to address the gap between those in BAME communities willing to donate, and those in need of a transplant. 

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “There is no doubt that this is an ambitious strategy, but we need to be ambitious and set the bar high if we are going to achieve our aim of saving even more lives by designing the very best organ donation and transplantation service in the world.”

The new strategy has also been supported by all four of the UK Health Ministers.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “The need for organ donors unites us all and NHS Blood and Transplant have had incredible success in boosting donation numbers and ensuring life-saving organs reach all four corners of the UK over the past decade, helping to save thousands of lives annually.

“This past year has demonstrated the importance of collaboration between national health services to save lives and help society’s most vulnerable.

“This new strategy will build on these achievements, and make the UK a global example for organ donation.”

Minister for Health in Northern Ireland, and MLA, Robin Swann, said: “We welcome this new ambitious strategy which will help build on the significant progress that has already been achieved in organ donation and transplantation.

“In Northern Ireland we have recently consulted on the introduction of an opt-out system for organ donation that I hope will lead to more organs being made available while also aligning to the aims of the new strategy.”

Scottish Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health and Sport, Maree Todd, said: “The publication of this strategy indicates the dedication of all four nations of the UK to increase organ donation and transplantation to help improve and save lives.

“While this strategy sets out key recommendations to be progressed across the UK, we have also developed a Donation and Transplantation Plan for Scotland which sets out a number of additional actions to further increase access to transplantation for people living in Scotland.”

Welsh Government Health Minister, Eluned Morgan, said: “We are immensely proud to have led the way with the introduction of a soft opt-out system of consent for organ donation in Wales, and are determined to support strategies to improve donor rates.

“Cardiff Transplant Unit have often led the way not only with pioneering new techniques, but also with rates of transplantation and outcomes. We are incredibly proud of their achievement and hope this new strategy will help.”

It is thought that over the next decade, as many as 2,400 additional organs will be available every year for transplantation to meet the demand for those on the waiting list. More information about the new strategy can be found here.

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