Desperate shortage of donors as heart transplant waiting list doubles in five years

20 July 2015        

An image of surgeons carrying out heart surgery

The number of people desperately waiting for a heart transplant has more than doubled in just five years, according to the latest statistics.

Annual figures published by NHS Blood and Transplant, showed that there is still a vast shortage of organ donors. There are currently 286 patients on the waiting list for a heart transplant, compared with 126 in 2010. The figure was as low as 88 in 2007.

Figures from the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15, showed that the number of deceased organ donors in the UK dropped for the first time in 11 years.

We're calling for the soft opt-out organ donation system – currently being introduced in Wales - to be rolled out across the rest of the UK to help increase the number of potential donors.

Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, said: “Tragically, these figures show that the number of available organs is outstripped by the number of heart patients waiting for a lifeline.

“For many critically ill heart patients a transplant can offer the best chance of long term survival but there is a desperate shortage of registered donors.

“That’s why the BHF support the introduction of a ‘soft opt out’ system across the UK where it’s assumed that someone is happy to donate unless they, or their family, say otherwise.

“From December, Wales will implement the opt-out system and we hope the rest of the UK will follow Wales’ trailblazing lead.”

The report showed there were 182 heart transplants carried out in the UK last year, a drop of 12 per cent from the previous year.

Sadly, 429 patients died while on the active waiting list for an organ transplant, including 38 heart patients.

Opt-out system

We support changing organ donation to a soft opt-out system, where everyone is considered to want to donate their organs unless they state otherwise. Campaigning for its introduction in Wales has long been a priority for us.

We believe adopting this system across the UK would help increase the number of organs available for donation and better reflect the wishes of the majority of the population.

Kevin Mashford, 38, from Bristol, had a life saving heart transplant in 2013.

He said: “A couple of years ago I went into multiple organ failure and a heart transplant was my only chance of life. Having lived with heart problems since birth, time was running out.

“I was incredibly lucky that I was put on the transplant list and my operation was successful. My donor’s decision to join the register and his family’s consent has allowed me to experience lots of incredible things I could only have dreamed of before my transplant.

“Which is why I urge people to join the organ donation register and speak to their next of kin about their wishes.”

Find out more and join the organ donor register.