Plymouth City Council is calling on the Government to consider a ‘soft opt out’ system on organ donation, following last week’s launch of the #TimeToSign organ donation campaign.
The Council has put forward a motion backing a move away from people having to ‘opt-in’ to organ donation, to the system backed by both the British Medical Association (BMA) of a ‘soft opt out system’, under which there would be a presumption in favour of consent for organ donation unless a person had registered an objection in advance. This ‘soft opt out system’ has already been adopted in Wales, as of 1 December 2015, and as well as the BMA, is backed by several major charities including the British Heart Foundation, Kidney Research UK, Diabetes UK, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
The Council is being backed in its call by Jillian Oxley from Plymouth, who lost her son Jon Paul aged just 21 in 2012 to Cystic Fibrosis.
Jillian said: “My son had waited 18 months for a lung transplant but no suitable donor had been found. Although we did have 5 calls during that period from potential donors, sadly none were a suitable match.
“I think we should have an opt-out system like they do in Wales, but people do also need to speak to their loved ones about it. I have been campaigning since my son Jon Paul died in 2012 and presented a petition of 1,000 signatures to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary.”
There are currently 17 people waiting for a transplant in Plymouth and 9 people have died whilst waiting for a transplant over the past 5 years. Just this year, since April 2016, 11 people in Plymouth have received a transplant, while 149 have undergone a transplant in the past 5 years.
The Council’s announcement follows the launch of a major campaign on 6 December in Plymouth in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant – #TimeToSign – urging people to register to donate immediately. The campaign is led by Plymouth City Council and is being supported locally by Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Livewell Southwest and other partners. The campaign will run until 31 December 2016.
Councillor Lynda Bowyer, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care for Plymouth City Council, said: “People are dying every day waiting for an organ transplant and this is not acceptable – we need to get more people to register for organ donation, and we believe that the system needs changing. While 86% of people agree that organ donation is important, around 37% of people who are willing to be organ donors say that they haven’t got around to joining the NHS Organ Donor Register.
“This Council believes that the current system of signing up to be on the donor register, whilst well intentioned, is not leading to the significant increase of organ donors that is needed to meet the needs of people on waiting lists in Plymouth.
“The BMA has been calling for this for some time and it is already the law in Wales, so let’s make it happen here as well. Between now and the end of December you will see our campaign in and around Plymouth.
“So if you’ve been thinking about registering for organ donation but haven’t got round to it, then now is the time – sign up now – you can do this by calling 0300 123 23 23. As we approach Christmas and we think about giving, think about giving the gift of life – the greatest gift of all.”
In addition to the campaign, the Council’s motion agreed to:
- Write to the Secretary of State for Health asking him to produce detailed proposals
- Send a copy of the motion to Plymouth MPs with a covering letter seeking their public support for the campaign
- Encourage residents, councillors, and employees to join the current donor register
Dr Ruth Harrell, Interim Director of Public Health for Plymouth City Council, said: “We urge everyone in Plymouth to get behind this campaign. Three people die in the UK every day while waiting for an organ transplant and in Plymouth alone, there are 17 people waiting for a transplant.
“The BMA has long advocated a ‘soft’ opt-out system with safeguards for organ donation and they continue to believe this is the best option for the UK to reduce the shortage of organs. This is also backed by several large national charities and as Wales have already adopted it we can see already that it can work from somewhere very close to home.
“Under the BMA’s proposals, if an objection had not been registered by the deceased, family members would still be given the opportunity to confirm whether the individual had any unregistered objection, as an extra safeguard, before any procedures went ahead.”
Spotlight on local service:
Linda Boorer is the Nurse Consultant for the South West transplant team, a regional centre covering the South west.
Linda said: “As a team we coordinate the assessment for renal transplantation, maintain the transplant waiting list, provide a 24 hour on call service for regional and national deceased donors, an active living donor programme and provide long term follow up to patients.
“We pride ourselves as a unit as having one of the shortest waiting times for kidney transplantation, a high number of pre-emptive transplants and an active altruistic/living donor programme.
“As renal nurses we are very aware of the restrictions and reduction in quality of life that renal failure and the treatment options provide. The opportunity of a successful kidney transplant offers many patients the freedom from the practical and psychological demands of dialysis.
“As a group of specialist nurses we would encourage anyone considering organ donation to discuss their decision with their family and loved ones.”
For more information on how YOU can register now visit http://bit.ly/2gyEByr or call 0300 123 23 23