New organ donation strategy launched by NHS

The NHS has launched a new strategy. Credit: PA Images

The NHS has launched a new strategy with the aim of making sure there are more organs for children who need transplants.

Children in need of a transplant are waiting longer and dying before they can receive an organ because the number of young organ donors remains static.

NHS Blood and Transplant's (NHSBT) first paediatric and neonatal organ donation strategy has been launched today.

A spokesperson said there are 177 children waiting for an organ transplant in the UK and in 2017/18, 17 children died while waiting for an organ donor.

They added that there were 57 child donors in 2017/18 who made 200 transplants possible compared to 55 child donors in 2013/14. During the same period the number of adult organ donors rose quickly with the number of deceased organ donors increasing by a fifth.

The new strategy has identified eight important steps to increase organ donation among under 18s. These include include increased support for families throughout the donation process, more dedicated training and support for clinical staff caring for paediatric patients, the development of new screening and assessment processes and continued work with coroners/ Procurator's Fiscal to enable more donations to proceed.

Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said:

It is heartbreaking that hundreds of very ill children and babies are waiting for an organ right now and that last year 17 families went through the unimaginable pain of losing a child while they are waiting for a lifesaving organ.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary

The is idea that every family facing the death of a child should have the opportunity to explore organ and tissue donation is a big part of the campaign. The strategy aims to help people see organ donation as a routine part of the end of someone's life.

At present parents that are asked about organ donation are "significantly" less likely to donate a child's organs for lifesaving transplants.

Only 48 per cent of families supported donation for a relative aged under 18 last year (2017/18). This compares to an average of 66 per cent of families agreeing overall.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, said:

For many children on the transplant waiting list their only hope is that the parent of another child will say 'yes' to organ donation at a time of terrible personal grief.

Anthony Clarkson, NHS Blood and Transplant

It is particularly difficult to find a donor for children and babies in need of a heart. The size of the heart is important, meaning a donor of a similar size is needed. Those children who need an urgent heart transplant will wait on average two and a half times as long as adults on the urgent waiting list.

Jack Brotton is one child currently waiting for a heart transplant. The 12-year-old, from Darlington, was born with a congenital heart defect and has undergone numerous operations.

His health has been deteriorating and he's now developed complications. His only option is to receive a donor heart.

His mum, Sarah Robson, aged 36, said:

It is every mum's worst nightmare. You're on a rollercoaster and you don't know when you're going to get off or how it will end.

Sarah Robson

Children can join the NHS Organ Donor Register, although those with parental responsibility must give consent for donation after they die. Parents can also choose to add their children to the NHS Organ Donor Register at any age.