50,000 people alive due to organ donation, figures show

Are you on the organ donor register? Picture: PA.
Are you on the organ donor register? Picture: PA.

More than 50,000 people are now alive thanks to organ donation, new figures show.

Data from NHS Blood and Transplant for the UK shows that the 50,000 barrier has been broken for the first time.

It said around 50,300 people are alive today due to organ transplants, more than enough to fill Chelsea's Stamford Bridge and almost enough to fill Liverpool's Anfield stadium.

This includes 36,300 kidney transplant patients, 1,900 who received a new pancreas, 3,900 people with new hearts or lungs or both, 9,800 with new livers and 1,000 who received new intestine.

Some patients have received more than one organ, such as a new kidney and a pancreas.

Over the past five years, there has been a 20% rise in yearly transplant figures, to reach a record 4,753 in 2016/17.

The number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register has also reached a record number of 23.6 million, up by 4.9 million over five years.

Just over a third of people (36%) are now on the register, compared with 30% five years ago.

Sally Johnson, director of organ donation and transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: "More people than ever are agreeing to organ donation and that is saving more lives than ever.

"This is an immense achievement. It's amazing to picture all the people now alive today thanks to organ donation and think of all the families and children who have grown up thanks to donors.

"We're seeing more and more people committing to donation and the good results of our close work with hospitals.

"Our specialist nurses in organ donation are now almost always involved in discussions with families over organ donation.

"Families tell us donation is a source of pride that helps them in their grieving process.

"We don't want anyone to miss the opportunity to save lives. Please join the NHS Organ Donor Register. It only takes two minutes."

However, the report also showed a widespread shortage of organ donors.

Some 457 people died last year while on the active transplant waiting list, meaning they were ready to receive a donor organ but one did not arrive in time.

A further 875 people were removed from the list, mostly because they became too ill to undergo transplant surgery.

There are currently 6,389 people on the active transplant list.

Around 3,000 more people need a donor but are currently suspended from the list due to the fact they may be temporarily too ill to undergo a transplant, or because they are abroad.

But the study did show that survival rates continue to improve once people do get a transplant.

In the early 1990s, an adult undergoing a common kidney transplant had a 66% chance the organ would still be functioning after five years, but this figure how stands at 87%.

Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: "Organ donation transforms and saves lives. These numbers show excellent progress and are a testament to the brilliant work of NHS Blood and Transplant and all those involved.

"Now we need more organ donors to come forward so everyone requiring a transplant stands the best chance of receiving one."

To join the register, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.