Organ donations are keeping more people alive than ever

Tom Lawson

The number of people who are alive in the UK thanks to organ transplants has exceeded 50,000 for the first time

There are a record 50,300 people alive in the UK today thanks to organ transplants, after a surge in donor numbers and progress on survival rates.

The figures, released today (11 June) by NHS Blood and Transplant, reveal that a record 4,753 people received transplants within 12 months between 2016 and 2017.

The number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register has increased by 4.9 million in the last five years, the UK Transplant Activity Report 2016/17 also shows. It means that 36 per cent of the UK population is now on the register, and organ transplants now help 800 more people per year than they did in 2012.

It’s amazing to picture all the people now alive today thanks to organ donation and think of all the families and children who have grown up thanks to donors

“More people than ever are agreeing to organ donation and that is saving more lives than ever,” said Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant. “This is an immense achievement. It’s amazing to picture all the people now alive today thanks to organ donation and think of all the families and children who have grown up thanks to donors.”

Julie Melady (pictured, centre left, with her family), from Fishtoft in Lincolnshire, had a life-saving liver transplant 32 years ago after contracting hepatitis at the age of 15.

“Someone lost their child, but they made the decision that saved my life,” Melady said. “That gave me the chance to go on and have children – my donor didn’t just save one life, they produced another two.”

It gave me the chance to go on and have children – my donor didn’t just save one life, they produced another two

As well as the increase in public support for organ donation, survival rates for transplant recipients has continued to improve. The chance of a transplanted kidney still functioning in an adult five years after operating has increased by 21 per cent since the early 1990s, up to an 87 per cent chance today.

However, despite the number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register now at record 23.6 million, there is still a shortage of donors. According to the report, 457 people died last year while on the active transplant waiting list and there are an estimated 6,400 people currently waiting for a transplant.

“There is still a long way to go,” said Johnson. “Around three people still die a day in need of a transplant. Every one of those people who die could be a mother or a father, a daughter or a son, who might be alive today.”

Transplants in numbers in 2016-17

  • 36,300 kidney transplants
  • 9,800 liver transplants
  • 3,900 cardiothoracic (heart or lung or combined heart/lung) transplants
  • 1,900 pancreas transplants
  • 1,000 intestinal transplants

 


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