City doctors urge people to talk openly about organ donation

Doctors and nurses in Southampton have urged people to talk openly with their families about organ and tissue donation to help save more lives.

In 2013-14, 94% of families across the UK agreed to donation when their relative was registered and had discussed their wishes.

However, this dropped to 80% when they were on the register but had not discussed donation and only 43.5% when their wishes were not known at all.

“We have made fantastic progress as a country in raising awareness of how important organ donation is and helping people to understand what a positive impact it can have on so many lives,” explained Dr Roger Lightfoot, director of the neurosciences intensive care unit at Southampton General Hospital.

“However, we are still a long way away from where we want to be, which is in a position where families talk openly about their wishes so it is no longer a taboo and does not result in misunderstanding between family members and their loved ones.”

Dr Lightfoot spoke out as part of the launch of NHS Blood and Transplant’s ‘Spell it out’ campaign for National Transplant Week, which runs from 7 to 13 July.

Last year at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, organ donations from 25 patients led to life-saving transplants for 99 people, with a total of 224 transplants carried out across Hampshire.

But an average of three patients die every day in the UK while waiting to receive an organ.

Dr Lightfoot said: “Organ donation is such a big part of life, not just in hospitals and for those people who receive donated organs, but for every person as we will all have the opportunity at some point to save a life in this way.”

He added that understanding and respecting the effects of organ donation on individuals and families played a critical part in helping people make the decision to become a donor or consent for their relatives.

“We must not allow ourselves to forget what a big part clinical teams play in this decision, as it takes skill, courage and expertise to discuss this subject with bereaved family members,” he said.

“We want people to know that the days of staff making blunt requests for family consent are gone – we now have teams of highly-skilled individuals to help liaise respectfully and sensitively, but we need the understanding of relatives and families to make it work.”

In Southampton, the organ donation team is made up of four specialist organ donation nurses supported by Dr Lightfoot and Dr Dominic Richardson, a consultant in general intensive care, as clinical leads.

Nicky Matthews, a specialist organ donation nurse, added: “Organ donation is now a specialist service in its own right and we have worked hard to improve our team and the quality of our work here to remove the fear associated with organ donation in the past.

“So we are now calling on people to do their bit to help save lives, not just here but across the country, by spelling out their wishes to family members to ensure they can help others and leave a lasting legacy.”

Posted on Tuesday 8 July 2014