The facts and figures and myths and legends of organ donation

While 96% of people in the UK believe in donating organs only 30% are on the donor register Credit: NHSBT

There are 7,500 people waiting for an organ transplant across the UK, yet while 90% of people believe donating an organ is the right thing to do - only 30% are signed up to the organ donor register.

The NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a Special Health Authority in England and Wales which organises and tracks organ donations and transplantation. The core purpose of the NHSBT is to "save and improve lives" through the provision of a safe and reliable supply of blood components, organs, stem cells, tissues and related services to the NHS.

One of the key aims of the NHSBT is to increase organ donation by 60% in 2016-2017 and to work toward self sufficiency in donation and transplantation across the UK.

Transplants and donors in numbers:

  • The total number of people on the Organ Donor Register is 19,320,264

  • Up to 1,000 people die every year due to a shortage of organs for transplant, that is 3 people every day

  • There are currently 7,410 people on the national waiting list for an organ transplant

  • There are currently 139 children on the national waiting list for an organ transplant

  • Last year only 3,068 organ transplants were carried out in UK hospitals

  • Although 90% of people say they support organ donation, just 30% of the UK population are on the NHS Organ Donor Register

  • Each year 500,000 people die in the UK, but only 3,500 die in circumstances where they can donate

  • In 2011-12 A total of 125 families overruled the wishes of someone on the organ donation register

  • You are more likely to need a transplant than become a donor

  • More women (54%) than men (46%) have signed up on the NHS Organ Donor Register


On average 1,000 people die every year waiting for a transplant Credit: NHSBT

About one million people suffer from heart failure every year, so transplants are increasingly vital after other therapies stop working:

  • There are currently 193 people waiting for heart transplants in the UK, including 17 children

  • There are 19 people on the register waiting for a heart and lung transplant

  • Last year 101 transplants were carried out

  • On average 15 in every 100 patients die while on the waiting list for a heart transplant

  • Although waiting times vary hugely, heart patients wait on average 253 days for a transplant

The myths around organ donation

You do not take on the characteristics of your donor. Such stories have included;

  • A man in Leicester claimed he gained a love of baking, shopping and dogs (an animal he previously did not like) after receiving a kidney from his wife

  • A woman from Lancashire claimed her literary tastes changed radically after a kidney transplant, swapping celebrity biographies for Crime and Punishment

  • An American man was suddenly able to paint after receiving the heart of an artistic young man killed in a car crash

Religion is no bar to organ donation, all of the UK’s major faiths support organ donation & transplantation.

You are never too old to join the organ donor register, some of the oldest organ donors have been:

  • Pancreas – 64

  • Heart – 65

  • Lung – 68

  • Kidney living - 83

  • Kidney deceased – 85

  • Liver - 85

  • Cornea - 104

How to join the organ register

You can join the Organ Donor Register by visiting

You can also join when registering for a driving licence or car tax, applying for a Boots Advantage card, registering with a GP or registering for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Donor cards can get damaged or lost, being on the register is a more permanent way of expressing your wishes. You should also discuss your decision with your family so they are aware of how you feel about organ donation.