The government is supporting a call to increase the number of organ donations by 50% over the next five years to save thousands of lives.

The recommendation, which would see an extra 1,200 transplants each year, was made by the Organ Donation Taskforce in its Organs for Transplants report, published yesterday.

The Taskforce was established to assess how organ donation could be improved and address the fact that the UK has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in Europe, and it makes several proposals it believes could vastly improve the current situation, marking a “radical shift from existing arrangements”, according to the Department of Health.

For example, it recommends putting in place around 100 extra donor transplant coordinators, to be employed by the NHS Blood and Transplant department as opposed to individual trusts, who will guide grieving families through the process of donation, which could boost the consent rate by 10%.

And it proposed a new strengthened network of dedicated organ retrieval teams that will work with hospitals to ensure the safe pick up and transport of organs for transplant around the UK.

The government says it is fully behind the recommendations made in the report. “Last year around 2,400 people in the UK benefited from an organ transplant, but more than 1000 people die every year waiting for a transplant. I am determined that we do all we can to increase levels of donation and make a difference to as many patients as possible,” explained health secretary Alan Johnson.

Financial backing
And it seems the government is prepared to put its money where its mouth is, promising £11 million next year to help implement the proposed modifications which, it says, could save the National Health Service a substantial amount of cash.

Aside from the obvious benefit of saving patients lives, a better organ donation system will also save “valuable resources,” the DH points out. The average bill for dialysis is around £25,300 a year, while a transplant carries an initial cost of £45,900 followed by annual maintenance costs of £7,100. The government hopes that the Taskforce’s recommendations will help achieve an extra 5,400 kidney transplants in the next decade, which alone equates to potential savings of over £500 million for the NHS.