Record number of organ donors in 2017

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A record number of people donated organs in the UK last year, with the highest increase in 28 years.

There were 1,575 donors, an 11% increase on the previous year.

Ben Glean from Grimsby, who died aged 18, was one of those donors. He suffered a cardiac arrest from undiagnosed type 1 diabetes.

His mum Karen said: “I knew what Ben wanted because we’d had the conversation, which made it easier for me.

“In my darkest time there was a light to be shone for someone else.”

He’d told his mum he was in support of donation but had not yet got around to joining the NHS Organ Donor Register.

His kidneys were transplanted into two men in their 30s and his liver into a man in his 50s. His corneas were also used for two sight-saving transplants.

“The intensive care unit was absolutely incredible,” said Karen.

“They were completely honest with me and answered countless questions. There aren’t words enough to thank those amazing nurses for the respect shown to my son, even after we knew there was no hope of him recovering.

“The tears of the nurses and doctors showed me how much they cared, and our goodbye to Ben was special because of them.”

Describing his last moments Karen said: “I’d crawl through the machinery and wires to play with his curly hair, to stroke his beautiful eyebrows and to whisper in his ear.

“I must have told him hundreds of times I loved him and I begged him to come back even though I knew he could not.

“Ben was kept comfortable and warm, his face cleaned, his hair brushed and he looked so peaceful and cared for. This is my last memory of my baby boy.”

Proactive approach

The record figures are being attributed to a proactive approach and the introduction of specialist nurses across the NHS, who are there to support donor families and ensure the donation is properly co-ordinated.

This has helped ensure fewer missed opportunities because families block donations, or the necessary equipment is not available.

Sally Johnson, NHS Blood and Transplant director of organ donation and transplantation, said the improvement had been magnificent.

She said the figures “would make any country in the world proud,” but added that a “deadly shortage of organ donors remains”.

“Around three people who could benefit from a donated organ still die each day.”

Fewer than 5,000 people a year die in circumstances where organ donation is possible.

The figures come at a time when the NHS is debating whether England should follow Wales and introduce an opt-out donation scheme.

The NHS has yet to publish the results of a public consultation which ran for 12 weeks until 6 March, and the feedback is being analysed.

Wales introduced an opt-out system in December 2015. However, a study published two years into the scheme, showed that it had not increased the number of donors in the country.

Scotland is bringing forward legislation to provide an opt-out system and the issue is also being debated in Northern Ireland. However, recently a leading transplant surgeon said the province was “not ready” for such a system to be introduced.



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