NHS opt-in transplant policy at risk due to cuts and staff stress

Plans to save hundreds of lives by making everyone in England a potential organ donor could fail because hospitals are so short of transplant surgeons and specialist nurses, the NHS’s own analysis of the policy has revealed.

Lives could be lost because teams of organ retrieval specialists are already under “extreme stress” and understaffed transplant centres are struggling to keep up with existing demand, according to NHS Blood and Transplant’s(NHSBT) impact assessment of switching to a system of presumed consent.

The 18-page analysis also reveals that:

  • Transplant units will need to hire 30 nurses who specialise in organ donation as well as extra managers to cope with increased availability of donor organs.
  • Hospitals will need more perfusion machines, which keep blood pumping around the organ or organs to be taken from someone who has recently died, in order to ensure they can be transplanted. In particular, units need more “circuits”, the tubes that pump blood into and out of the deceased body, so organs can be kept alive.
  • NHSBT’s operational hub at its Bristol headquarters, which supervises organ donation on a 24/7 basis, will also need more staff.

t is estimated that switching to presumed consent will yield about 100 extra donors per year and another 230 transplants taking place, the document says. Although 500,000 people a year die in the UK, only 5,000 of them die in circumstances where their organs can be retrieved and used, NHSBT said. More

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