Transplant and Organ Donation Update

Transplant Activity During COVID-19 Pandemic

Over the last six weeks, COVID-19 has affected transplantation activity in the UK as resources have been reallocated to deal with COVID-19. NHS Blood and Transplant has reorganised the way organs are retrieved and allocated so that transplants can continue to take place for those with the greatest need.

Although there was a drop in the number of donor organs available and in the number of transplants that took place initially, NHSBT report that they are now starting to see these numbers increase. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, all seven liver transplant centres have been able to continue with super urgent and urgent liver transplants. Each transplant centre is making decisions about transplants based on local COVID-19 burden, and the balance of risks/ benefits for patients.

Max and Keira’s Law – the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act

Max and Keira’s Law – the Organ Donation (Deemed Consent) Act is planned come into effect on the 20th May 2020. This means that all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate, what’s known as ‘opt out’, or are in one of the excluded groups.

The law change is still scheduled to go ahead on 20th May and we understand that the Secretary of State has confirmed that organ donation is still very much a priority.

Organ donation campaign activity was paused in March to make way for important COVID-19 messaging but will begin again on 4th May. Information about the law change will be advertised widely, including in papers, social media, and podcasts. The strap line 'Pass It On' will not appear as it is no longer appropriate given the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the overall messages remain the same:

  • we have hope that the law change will increase the number of transplants that can take place
  • you can potentially save lives by being an organ donor
  • it is important to let your loved ones know your decision about organ donation and to encourage people to record their decision on the organ donor register
  • families will still continue to make the final donation decision

We are encouraged by today's briefing. With the increased intensive care capacity in the UK, made in preparation for COVID-19, there is a chance that people on the transplant waiting list may benefit as COVID-19 decreases and more transplants can take place.