Specialist nurses supporting more organ donations than ever before

Last year 100 people received life-changing transplants as a result of a record number of organ donations in Southampton.

In 2017 University Hospital Southampton Foundation Trust recorded the highest number of families saying yes to donation with 36 people donating their organs.

The organ donation service is managed by specialist health authority NHS Blood and Transplant which came into effect in 2008 in response to the UK having one of the worst rates for organ donation in western Europe. 

A paper published at that time made a number of recommendations to increase the number of organs available for transplant including the creation of specialist nurses for organ donation and embedding them in acute trusts, like UHS.

It meant that when difficult conversations around organ donation were needed, specialists were on hand to offer support.

Since 2008, the team at UHS has expanded to now include four nurses and three clinical leads and this in turn as led to a significant increase in the number of families saying yes to donation and going on to give the gift of life to others. 

Nicky Matthews is a specialist nurse in organ donation in Southampton.

She said: “In my role as a specialist nurse for organ donation I meet families when their loved one has died or is dying to explore their loved ones wishes around what they would want at the end of their life and this includes discussion about organ donation. 

“If they know or believe that this is what their loved one would have wanted then I set up the donation process, find matched recipients and stay with the patient during the donation operation. After the donation I keep in contact with the families to offer them support and information as they need.”

Currently 144 people are actively awaiting an organ donation in Hampshire, prompting renewed efforts to encourage people to sign up to the organ donation register and have conversations with loved ones about their decision.

Nicky said: “In England you still need to sign up to the organ donor register to opt in if you wish to be a donor. However, even if you have put your name on the register we will still speak to your family for them to support your wishes.

“If they disagree with the donation then we will not go ahead. In my experience the most difficult discussions I have are with families who just did not know their loved one’s wishes, and unfortunately we know that these families are more likely to decline donation. My message is if you want to be an organ donor - sign the register and tell you family.”

Nicky will be talking about her role and the work of the organ donation service at tonight's members’ evening. Read more about the event here.

Posted on Tuesday 17 July 2018