New figures published today by the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHS BT) in the Transplant Activity Report showed that the number of heart transplants dropped in the year to March 2019.
Meanwhile, the list for people waiting to receive a new heart increased.
According to the figures, the number of heart, or heart/lung transplants fell to 186 in 2018/19, down from 210 the previous year.
Although overall figures for organ donation showed that there were fewer eligible donors than in the previous year, last year saw the highest ever number of organ donors. According to the NHS BT, this is due to factors such as more families agreeing to support organ donation and an increased referral rate of potential donors by medical staff.
Change in law
Next year, the organ donation law will change in England and Scotland to an ‘opt-out’ system from an ‘opt-in’ system, as is the law in Wales. This will mean that instead of signing on to an organ donation register, people will have to request to be removed.
Commenting on the new figures, Simon Gillespie, our Chief Executive, said:
“These new figures for heart transplants show just how important it is for people to talk about what they want to happen to their organs when they die. It could literally be the difference between life and death.
“Right now, there are 320 people in the UK waiting for a new heart, but one in six will not receive the heart transplant they need.
“However, as the organ donation law in England and Scotland changes to an opt out system, we are provided with a historic opportunity to ensure that the hundreds of people waiting for a new heart will receive one. To ensure this change is a success, the Government must now invest in further infrastructure, specialist organ donation nurses and more intensive care beds.”
Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS BT, said:
“The reduction in the number of people dying in circumstances where they are able to donate, means that we need to continue to explore ways to improve the donation and transplant process. We are utilising new techniques and technologies to ensure that donated organs are in the very best possible condition for transplant and are working to increase awareness and understanding of organ donation and the law change across society with the aim that no opportunity for donation is missed.
“Donors and their families give the most precious gift of life. We owe it to them, as well as those waiting for a transplant, to ensure their precious gift is honoured and that we make the most of every opportunity to save and improve lives.”
Find out more about the BHF's policies on organ donation