With hundreds of opportunities for organ transplants missed each year because families aren’t sure what to do, Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is urging more people to talk to their loved ones about their preferences for organ donation to help save lives.
Organ Donation Week, an annual initiative which aims to raise awareness of the need for organ donors, takes place from 20-26 September 2021. The campaign, which this year has a theme of ‘Leave Them Certain’, encourages people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register.
The process of organ donation is where a person allows an organ of their own to be removed and transplanted to another person. Any person in the UK can consent to allowing some or all of their organs to be used after death to help another person live well by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register online.
More than 500 people in Scotland are currently awaiting an organ transplant, with organs commonly required including the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, corneas, pancreas, tissue and small bowel. Tragically, 359 people in the UK died during 2019-20 waiting for a transplant.
The requirement for organ donors has significantly increased as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the transplant waiting list growing as thousands of organ transplant operations have been delayed or cancelled due to the crisis. Moreover, a fall in violent crime and car accidents during lockdown meant that the pool of organs available to doctors has been reduced.
Indeed, ensuring the safety of organ donation and transplantation during the pandemic has caused substantial difficulties for the NHS. This challenge has been heightened by the fact that organs from donors who have tested positive for COVID-19 cannot be used. This means that a high number of organs that would normally have been available for transplantation are no longer available.
As of this year, the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019 became law in Scotland, meaning that the old system of people ‘opting in’ to organ donation was replaced with a new ‘opt out’ system.
Hence, anyone who dies in circumstances where they could become a donor and have not recorded a donation decision may be assumed as willing to donate their organs and tissues for transplantation. Under this system, individuals are still able to opt out of organ donation by registering their decision online.
This legislation will result in thousands of more organs being made available every year for the benefit of individuals in need of an organ transplant. Similar laws have also been adopted in England and Wales.
Organ Donation Week 2021 provides an ideal opportunity for citizens in Cumbernauld to seriously think about organ donation. By choosing to become an organ donor, any given individual is potentially saving one or more lives in the future. The impact on someone’s lifespan and quality of life is likely to be seismic.
While most people agree that it is a wise thing to talk to their family about organ donation, it is less likely that they will have actually had this important conversation.
Sadly, many opportunities are lost every year because families don’t know if their loved one wanted to be a donor or not. That’s why it’s so important not to wait and to talk about it at home today.
Even though the opt-out organ donation system recently introduced in Scotland represents a huge step forward, there is still a critical need for people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Signing up is a simple online process and only takes a few minutes
As well as organ donation after death, courageous individuals can also register to become a living organ donor. In fact, in excess of 800 Scots have transformed the lives of others by becoming living kidney donors in the last decade. This is possible because a healthy person can lead a completely normal life with only one working kidney.
Over 80% of those on the transplant list in Scotland are in need of a kidney. The average waiting time for a kidney from a deceased donor is three years. It is also known that those receiving a kidney transplant from a living donor have a better long-term prognosis. More about organ donation through UK Living Kidney Sharing Schemes can be obtained by clicking here.
Four years ago, Cumbernauld played a major role in the promotion of organ donation nationally by hosting several events and providing over 100 volunteers for The British Transplant Games 2017.
The Games saw over 2,000 transplant athletes and their supporters from across the country travel to North Lanarkshire to compete in 25 sports over four action-packed summer days. Cumbernauld played host to The Games’ snooker events at Red Triangle Snooker Club and the fishing competition at Magiscroft Fishery in Condorrat.
At the time, local promotion and awareness raising through The Games resulted in a spike in the number of North Lanarkshire citizens joining the NHS Organ Donor Register. Cornerstone House Centre is pushing for another surge of donor registrations in 2021 as the full effects of the coronavirus pandemic are realised.
Greater Cumbernauld has a higher than average proportion of residents living with health conditions that require or could potentially require organ donation.
For a variety of social, economic and historical reasons, health statistics in Cumbernauld compare relatively poorly with those in Scotland as a whole. Notably, the area has higher than desired recorded rates of Coronary Heart Disease, COPD and alcohol-related hospital stays.
The next British Transplant Games are scheduled to take place in Leeds from 28-31 July 2022.