939,000 more pledged to help others


 The number of people receiving a life-saving organ transplant last year reached a new record, with the increase due to an all-time high total of living donor transplants.

 However, transplants of hearts or lungs fell, while overall transplant numbers from deceased donors remained static. Those figures, plus another steep rise in people registered for a transplant, highlight the importance of implementing the recommendations of the Organ Donation Taskforce, according to UK Transplant Managing and Transplant Director Chris Rudge.

 Figures issued to coincide with National Transplant Week (6-13 July) show that from April 1 2007 to March 31 2008, 3,238 patients benefited from an organ transplant, 5% higher than 2006-07 which was also a record at 3,087. The 2007-08 total includes 2,385 transplants from deceased donors, virtually unchanged from the 2,389 in the previous year. 

 Living donors allowed a further 853 people to benefit from a transplant, a 22% increase on 2006-07. This included 832 living donor kidney transplants, accounting for more than one-in-three of all kidney transplants, and involved six altruistic donor transplants and four transplants as a result of new arrangements for paired donation.

 There were also 20 living donor liver transplants, compared to just eight in 2006-07, while one person received a lung transplant using part of a lung from two living donors.

 Despite the record transplant figure, the number of people registered for a transplant also rose to an all-time high, finishing the year at 7,655 – a 6% increase on the 7,219 at the end of 2006-07.

 Chris Rudge, who has recently been appointed the first National Clinical Director for Transplant, said: “Another record number of lives saved by transplants is obviously very welcome and is a testament to the kindness of donors and their families who make these operations possible. It also highlights how ongoing investment in living donation and other programmes to increase opportunities for donation have allowed more people to benefit from a transplant.

 “However, the lack of growth in transplants from deceased donors, coupled with the continuing rise in people needing a transplant, emphasise that trying to carry on as we have been is not an option.  That is why implementing all 14 recommendations of the Organ Donation Taskforce is so important, as it holds out the real prospect of increasing the UK’s rate of organ donation by 50% within five years – resulting in an additional 1,200 transplants annually and saving thousands more lives.”

 Although the 809 deceased organ donors represent a slight increase on the 2006-07 figure of 793, the number of heartbeating donors (those who die while on a ventilator and historically the main source of donated organs for transplant) continued its decline of recent years.

 Last year saw 609 people become heartbeating donors, compared to 634 the year earlier. Similarly, the number of transplants resulting from these donors dropped from 2,069 in 2006-07 to 1,952 last year.

 The 200 non-heartbeating donors (those who were diagnosed by cardiac death in hospital) last year accounted for almost a quarter of all deceased donors and represent a 26% increase on the 159 of 2006-07. There were 429 transplants from these donors, 36% higher than the 316 the previous year. Non-heartbeating donors are able to donate kidneys, liver, pancreas and – in rare circumstance – lungs. They are not able to donate their heart.

 The number of pancreas transplants continued to rise in 2007-08 – with 58 pancreas-only procedures compared with 27 the previous year, and 188 kidney/pancreas combined (164 in 2006-07). Liver transplants from deceased donors were virtually unchanged – 623 as against 626 in 2006-07.

 However, cardiothoracic transplant numbers were down over the year. The 127 heart transplants carried out was 18% lower than the previous 12 months, while 115 lung transplants (not including one involving part of a lung from a living donor) represent a 10% fall.

 In addition, 2,489 people had their sight restored through a cornea transplant, 86 more than in 2006-07.

 Health Secretary Alan Johnson said: “Organ transplantation is one of the big success stories of modern medicine so it is particularly welcome to see the highest ever number of people benefit from the procedure in the year the NHS celebrates its 60th birthday.  I would like to salute the patients and families who have agreed to donate organs and saved so many lives.

 “However, many more could have benefited, which is why the Government has accepted all 14 recommendations of the Organ Donation Taskforce and is investing almost £12million this year to start bringing them to fruition.”

 During the year, 939,000 more people pledged to help others after their death by registering their wishes on the NHS Organ Donor Register, bringing the total at 31 March 2008 to over 15.2 million.

 Sadly, during the year 482 people died while registered for a transplant – with estimations that at least as many again died after being permanently removed from the list because they became too ill to undergo a transplant.

 * You can find out more about donation and join the NHS Organ Donor Register by telephoning 0845 60 60 400 or visiting http://www.uktransplant.org.uk, or by texting the word ‘GIVE’ to 84118. Standard text rates apply.