ghp July 2015 | 31 public health NHS reports that for the first time in over a decade the num- ber of deceased organ donors has dropped, leaving services stretched with demand still high. The Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Re- port 2014/ 2015 shows that the number of transplants has decreased from 4,655 in 2013/ 2014 to 4,431 in 2014/ 2015, representing a 5% decrease on last year. These figures means that 224 fewer people received an organ transplant. The number of people donating their organs has fallen for the first time in over 11 years despite 4,431 people in the UK having had their lives saved or improved by an organ transplant in 2014/ 2015. Of the transplants carried out, 1,092 were made possible by living donors who gave a kidney or part of their liver, while 3,339 patients benefitted from organs donated after death. The NHS relies heavily on organs provided by deceased donors because there is a wider variety of organs which can be harvested as they are no longer required, whereas living donors can only spare a limited number of organs. The reason for these poor results was twofold. Firstly, fewer people died in circumstances where they could donate last year, with potential donors being at 8,157 in 2013/ 2014 compared to 7,450 in 2014/ 2015. This represented a decrease of 8.7%. Secondly there has been no improvement in the con- sent/ authorisation rate, which remains below 60% despite targeted campaigns by various charities and the NHS to encourage people to sign up the organ donation service. This includes a launched a seven year organ donation and transplantation strategy launched in 2003 by the UK Governments and NHS Blood and Transplant. Although the first of these two issues is unavoidable, the second is a real problem which affects the health service and could potentially be combated by greater education and a reduction in the stigma around dis- cussing organ donation with friends and relatives. NHS Blood and Transplant, the organisation that published the report and leads organ donation across the UK, is calling for everyone in the UK to discuss organ donation and decide what they would do if called on to donate. If there are fewer potential donors then gaining consent/authorisation from everyone is even more important. The trust is keen to emphasise that unless there is a change in attitudes to organ donation people waiting for a transplant will continue to die needlessly. The report has indicated that discussion is key to improving these figures, with the statistics published in the report stating that families are much more likely to agree to donation going ahead if they know it is what their loved one wanted. Last year, nearly nine out of ten families said yes when their loved one’s decision to donate was known, for example either via the NHS Organ Donor Register or via a previous discussion with them about organ donation. But even when their deci- sion to donate was known, 120 families felt unable to honour their loved one’s decision to donate. Sally Johnson, NHS Blood and Transplant’s Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, stated that the findings indicate that the drop in figures was putting a huge strain on the service, as well as drastically affecting patients. ‘We are truly grateful to the families of the 1,282 deceased donors and to each of the 1,092 living donors who made transplants possible last year. Their donations allowed over 4,400 people to get the organ transplant they’ve been waiting for to save or vastly improve their lives. We have always known that because the opportunities to donate are so small, it is essential to increase the number of people who say yes to organ donation. If the pool of potential donors is reduced then this is even more important.’ She continued: ‘We understand that families are ex- pected to consider donation in their darkest hour. So we would remind everyone to tell those closest to you now if you want to donate your organs - and then re- cord that decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. Should the time come, your family will know you want to donate your organs to help to save others. The decreases we can see across all types of organ transplant will lead to more deaths if we do not reverse this trend going forward. We know there is a combina- tion of reasons for the decreases, but we cannot hope to save more lives unless UK citizens talk about organ donation with their families and agree to donate if ever they are asked.’ The lack of NHS organs for donation has ramifi- cation across the healthcare industry, with private clinics also struggling with demand, as the NHS has priority over donated organs and therefore the reduction in donations affects them as well. Firms which deal in aftercare products for such procedures will also see a limited demand for their products if this decline continues.