Staff at Southampton’s teaching hospitals have launched a campaign to increase the number of organ and tissue donors across the south.
An average of three patients die every day in the UK while waiting to receive an organ and more than 10,000 people are currently in need of a transplant.
Research published last week shows 96% of people would accept an organ if in need of one, yet only a fraction of that number are signed up to donate.
At present, only 27% of people in Southampton have signed up to the donor register, proving the need to raise awareness of how important donation is to saving or improving the lives of thousands of people.
Since April this year, 12 patients at Southampton General Hospital have donated organs following death and these have saved the lives of 41 people.
But 525 people in the region are currently awaiting a life-saving transplant and a shortage of donor organs has led to 11 deaths this year.
Trish Collins, donor transplant coordinator at Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We are striving to make donation following the death of a patient a routine rather than an unusual event, and offer all families the option of organ and tissue donation.
“Medical staff and patients who have received organs cannot emphasise enough just how vital donation is to the health service, and we urgently need to get this message across to everyone.”
Many people are under the wrong impression that the focus of donation is solely on organs – but Trish is keen to point out that tissue donation is just as vital.
“Many patients have enhanced the life of others through tissue donation, which includes giving the gift of sight through eye donation and enabling severely burned patients to have much needed skin grafts through skin donation,” she said.
SUHT’s eye unit is one of only ten national eye retrieval centres, which means more sight-restoring transplant operations than ever are set to be carried out over the next three years – as long as enough corneas are donated.
Unlike other organs, which must be donated immediately, corneas can be donated up to 24 hours after death and there is no upper age limit on corneal donation – the oldest known donor was 103 years old and the oldest recipient was 104.
SUHT has also taken other steps to raise the profile of organ donation across the organisation, including setting up an organ donation committee made up of clinical and non-clinical staff, as well as a patient representative.
In addition, Dr Andy Eynon, director of the neurosciences intensive care unit, has been appointed clinical lead for organ donation.
He said: “Most of us support organ donation and the overwhelming majority would accept an organ if we needed it. We would urge everybody who supports organ donation to show it by signing up to the organ donor register and discussing their wishes with their families."
If you would like to register as an organ donor, visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk, call 0300 123 23 23 or text SAVE to 84118.
Posted on Tuesday 10 November 2009