Hundreds of transplants missed each year

4 September 2017        

Category: BHF Comment

More than three families a week say no to organ donation because they didn’t know what their relative wanted, according to new figures released by NHS Blood and Transplant.

Human organ freezer box

The figures, announced today, mark the beginning of Organ Donation Week (September 4 to 10) as NHS Blood and Transplant urges people to tell their families they want to become life saving organ donors.

The waiting list

Last year more that 450 people in the UK died while on the active transplant waiting list. There are currently over 6,000 people waiting for a transplant.

Uncertainty costs lives

A contributing factor to these deaths is that families don’t know the wishes of their loved ones when they die.

NHS Blood and Transplant’s annual audit of potential donors in 2016/17 shows 177 families said no to donation because “they were not sure whether the patient would have agreed”. Those refusals could have led to around 460 life saving or life-transforming transplants, according to the figures.

Heart transplants

There are over half a million people in the UK living with heart failure, a debilitating condition where the heart is unable to pump blood around the body effectively. In its severest form, heart failure has a worse survival rate than many cancers. Today, the only cure for heart failure is a heart transplant.

Speaking about the need for more donors, our Associate Medical Director Dr Mike Knapton said:

“There are over 250 people on the waiting list but only 200 heart transplants took place last year in the UK. For these people, it’s an agonising wait for a new heart that could mean the difference between life and death.

“It takes two minutes to sign up to the Organ Donor Register, and even less time to have a conversation with your loved one about your wishes. This might seem like a difficult conversation, but it could save lives of people in desperate need of a heart transplant, and ensure your wishes are respected after death."

Sign up to the organ donation register