Organ donation rates for transplants still too low in UK, says NHS

Consent rate one of lowest in Europe, with black, Asian and ethnic minority communities of particular concern


A record number of organs were donated and transplanted in the UK in 2015-16 but the consent rate is still one of the lowest in Europe, with a worrying shortfall of donors from black or Asian communities. In the 12 months to the end of March, 1,364 people became organ donors when they died and their donations resulted in 3,519 transplants taking place, figures published on Thursday show.

The consent rate stood at 62%, slightly up on 2012-13 when it was 57%, but well short of the target of 80% by 2020 with the biggest obstacle being family refusal, mostly when they were unaware of their deceased relative’s intentions. The consent rate was much lower (34%) among potential black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) donors, which is of particular concern as 26% of the current waiting list are BAME. Sally Johnson, NHS Blood and Transplant director of organ donation and transplantation, said: “Think about what we would want others to do for us if we ever need a transplant and be prepared to donate.

Talking to your relatives about what you want is crucial as it is much more difficult to agree to donation when you don’t know what the patient would have wanted. There are about 6,500 people waiting for a transplant now and they need people to agree to donate for them to get the organ transplant they so desperately need. “It is especially important for people from our black and Asian communities to talk about organ donation.

I realise that this is a very difficult subject but there are many black and Asian people who need a transplant. While some are able to receive an organ from a white donor, others will die if there is no donor from their own community.” Last year, 466 patients died in need of an organ and a further 881 were removed from the transplant waiting list, many whom would also have died shortly afterwards. Advertisement NHS Blood and Transplant estimates that if 80% of families approached to donate a relative’s organs said yes, more than 1,000 additional transplants would take place across the UK each year.

A lot of people from Caribbean backgrounds are quite susceptible to kidney disease. Her organs were going to be really beneficial to someone in that category. There’s a positive outcome after a very sad ending.

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, and make up a third of the active kidney transplant waiting list. But in 2015-16 only 67 (5%) of all deceased organ donors were from black and Asian backgrounds.

Lloyd Dalton-Brown, 65, who lives in Exeter, agreed to donate his half-sister Jane’s organs when she died aged 29 after being hit by a truck in 2000. Their father was from Trinidad. “Because of that gift [of organs] five people had transplants, which is utterly fantastic. One of them was a mother of young children; she got one of Jane’s kidneys and because of that ended up with quality of life and was able to bring up her children.

The Welsh government, which on 1 December became the first part of the UK to introduce a “soft opt-out” system, expressed satisfaction at a 24% rise in the number of its citizens whose lives have been saved or improved by organ transplants, compared with a 4% increase in the UK as a whole. The effect of the change in system was relatively small in the period analysed, during which there were nine cases where consent was deemed.

Charities including Live Life Give Life and the British Heart Foundation urged people to join the organ donor register and communicate their decision to their loved ones.