Organ donation

Would you take an organ if you needed one? Nearly everyone would. But only 31% of us have joined the Organ Donor Register.

More than 10,000 people in the UK currently need a transplant. Of these, 1000 each year - that's three a day - will die because there are not enough organs available.

Please help to turn people’s good intentions about organ donation into action by registering on the NHS Organ Donor Register

What is organ donation?

Organ donation is the process of a person donating their organs for transplant. These are given to someone with damaged organs that need to be replaced. An organ transplant may save a person's life, or significantly improve their health and quality of life.

Between April 1 2011 and March 31 2012, 3,960 organ transplants were carried out in the UK thanks to the generosity of 2,143 donors.  Unfortunately the amount of people that require an organ transplant is significantly higher than the amount of potential suitable donors. This means we must identify and offer all potential donors the opportunity to donate organs.

Types of donations

There are three different ways of donating an organ. These are known as:

  • Donation after brain stem death  (deceased donation)
  • Donation after circulatory death  (deceased donation)
  • Live organ donation

Most people waiting for a donated organ need to have a kidney, heart, lung or liver transplant. One deceased donor may be able to help several people because a single deceased donor can donate a number of organs, including:

  • Kidneys
  • Liver
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Small bowel
  • Pancreas

Tissues that can also be donated include:

  • The cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye)
  • Bone
  • Skin
  • Heart valves
  • Tendons
  • Cartilage

All donors have the choice of which organs and tissues they wish to donate.

At Queen Alexandra Hospital, we offer kidney transplant services and renal dialysis services for patients with end stage kidney failure. About 300 people per year die whilst on the kidney transplant list. The remainder are awaiting other organs.  Or In the UK over a 1000 people a year die waiting for an organ transplant. About 300 of those people are on the kidney transplant list

Queen Alexandra Hospital accounted for 2.6 % of all kidney transplant operations carried out across the UK and performed 78 kidney transplants in 2012-13. We also performed the highest number of altruistic kidney donations (someone giving a kidney to a complete stranger) in the UK at our hospital for 2012.

How do I donate?

The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential national database that holds the details of more than 19 million people who want to donate their organs when they die. 

By adding your name to the NHS Organ Donor Register, everyone will be aware of your wishes, making it easier for them to agree to your donation. You can join the register in a number of ways, including: 

By completing an online form here

By calling the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 23 23 (lines are open 24 hours a day all year round. Calls are charged at your contracted rate for local calls) 

By texting SAVE to 62323 

Donation after brain stem death 

Most deceased organ donations are from brain stem dead donors. This means the patient (and potential donor) has been confirmed brain stem dead following a severe brain injury. The circulation is supported by artificial ventilation until the donated organs have been retrieved. Organs transplanted from brain stem dead donations have a high success rate usually working immediately. Tissues other than organs can also be donated from these donors. 

Donation after cardiac death 

Organs and tissue can also be donated after circulatory death. In the UK, almost all donors of this type are people who are in intensive care units following severe brain injuries, but who are not brain stem dead. The very significant brain injury sustained means they have no prospect of a meaningful, independent quality of life, will almost certainly die in any case.

In these cases, the organs must be retrieved within a few minutes of the heart stopping to prevent them being damaged by a lack of oxygenated blood. Organs transplanted from circulatory dead donations also have a high success rate but usually do not work immediately with the transplant recipients often needing on going support for a few days.

Live organ donation

A live organ donation usually involves a family member or friend donating an organ to someone they know well. Examples of “directed” live donations would be a parent to a child, husband to wife and between work colleagues/friends. 

Following changes in the law in 2006, it is now possible to be an altruistic or “non-directed” live donor. These live donors are unknown to the recipient but become donors as an act of personal generosity to help someone less well than themselves. There have been more than two hundred altruistic donors in the UK between June 2007 and June 2013. 

Over 1000 live kidney donations are performed in the UK every year. The majority are donated to friends and family. This is only possible due to the generosity of healthy individuals and the use of modern surgical and anaesthetic techniques which ensure the donation is as safe as possible and recovery is rapid. A healthy person can lead a completely normal life with only one working kidney. 

How to become a Donor.

Related content

Last updated - 29 May 2014

This is a printable version of https://www.porthosp.nhs.uk/for-inpatients/patient-support-and-advice/organ-donation.htm?pr=