Over the last five years 100 patients have helped turn an end into a beginning at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust by becoming an organ donor after their death.
The figures have been released by NHS Blood and Transplant to mark Organ Donation Week (5 – 11 September) which highlights how people could give someone the chance of a new beginning by telling their family they want to be an organ donor.
Every day across the UK, around three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren’t enough organ donors. And currently, in the North East around 263 people are on the active waiting list for a transplant. Yet, of the approximately half a million people who die each year across the UK, only around 1% (5,603) die in circumstances where their organs could be donated.
With such small numbers of people dying in the right circumstances to become an organ donor and so many adults and children in need of a transplant, it is vital that no opportunity for someone to become a donor is missed.
Many people believe that all you need to do to show you want to be a donor is to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. However, if you die in circumstances where you could become an organ donor your family would be approached by specialist nurses and asked to support .
NHS Blood and Transplant figures show that only 47% of families agree to organ donation if they are unaware of their relative’s decision to be a donor. Yet almost 90% of families give their consent when the decision to be an organ donor is known.
Sharon Mitchinson, specialist nurse for organ donation at The James Cook University Hospital said: “We’re delighted by the number of lives saved or improved by the generosity of donors and their families at our hospital over the past five years. Life-saving transplants are only possible if people are willing to be donors and we are extremely grateful to the 100 people from South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who helped to give a new beginning to people across the UK. Their families should be very proud that they agreed to donation going ahead and we hope that others will be inspired to talk about organ donation and to share their decision with their relatives.”
There is a particular need to encourage more black and Asian families to talk about organ donation. In 2015/16, only 5% of all deceased donors came from a Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) background and families from these communities are more likely to refuse consent than white families. This is a particular concern, as 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. While some may be able to receive an organ from a white donor, for many others the best, or only, match would be from someone from the same ethnic background.
Last year, only 34% of families from a BAME background gave their consent to donate a relative’s organs, compared to 66% of white families. At the same time, NHS Blood and Transplant research shows that people from a BAME background are less likely to be aware of the NHS Organ Donor Register, less likely to have had a conversation with their family, less likely to agree it is important to share your decision with relatives and it is less likely that their family will be aware of their decision.
Anthony Clarkson, assistant director for organ donation and nursing at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “Too many families faced with the possibility of donating a relative’s organs, find themselves having to make a decision without the comfort of knowing exactly what their loved one would have wanted. This makes what is already an emotional and difficult time even harder. It is vital you tell your family about your organ donation decision, that knowledge will make it so much easier for them to support what you want.
Many donor families say that donation helps with their grief and they feel enormous pride, knowing that their relative went on to save lives after they died – giving others the chance of a new beginning. So please talk to your relatives and tell them that you want to donate should you be in a position to do so, and that you want them to support your decision to save lives after your death.”
Across the country during Organ Donation Week, hospitals, health teams, charities and individual supporters and their families will be highlighting the need for people to talk about organ donation and share their decision with family
Start a conversation today and help turn an end into a beginning. Join the NHS Organ Donor Register and make sure you tell your friends and family your decision.