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  1. ITV Report

Heart transplant waiting times nearly treble in 10 years

The waiting list for a heart transplant has nearly trebled in a decade, but a severe shortage of donated organs means people with heart disease are dying without receiving the transplant they need.

NHS Blood and Transplant service figures show the number of people on the waiting list for a new heart in the UK has increased by 162% since 2008.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) revealed the figures on the 50th anniversary of the world's first heart transplant as it launched a campaign to encourage potential donors to make their wishes known to their next of kin.

The charity said many people believed all they had to do to become an organ donor after death was to join the NHS register or carry their donor card, but families are still entitled to bar the procedure if they are unsure of their loved one's wishes.

Despite surveys showing eight in 10 of all adults in England saying they support organ donation, last year the NHS asked 3,144 families to agree to it, but 1,172 of them declined.

NHS organ donation and transplantation associate director Professor John Forsyth said around 200 people received heart transplants in the UK annually.

The waiting list numbers have increased partly due to an ageing population and the increasing risk of heart disease.

"In the last 10 years, with a huge amount of work from many people both within the NHS and outside of the NHS, the number of people donating their organs in death has reached the record number of 1,413," Prof Forsyth said.

BHF chief executive Simon Gillespie said the surgery once considered "laughably risky" had developed over the last 50 years to become so advanced that hundreds of successful heart transplants are carried out in the UK every year.

"But this is not enough. We need to give those waiting for a new heart the best chance of actually receiving a healthy organ. This will only happen if we start the conversations with our loved ones so that, if the situation arises, they will be able to honour our wishes and save a life," Mr Gilbert said.

South African cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard undertook the world's first heart transplant on 3 December 1967, transplanting the heart of a woman who died following a car accident to a grocer suffering from heart disease.

The recipient survived 18 days but later succumbed to pneumonia due to the immuno-suppressant drugs he was taking.