Vital to increase donation rates

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We are writing in response to the articles ‘Nine-year transplant battle’ and ‘Have we forgotten the value of life’ (County Times July 19).

Organ donation is a very important and sensitive issue and one that the both of us - and the coalition Government - take very seriously.

You may be aware that in 2008 a report was published by the Organ Donation Taskforce. Since then, a great deal of work has taken place to strengthen the donation programme and increase the number of organs available for patients. Donor rates are now around 38 per cent higher than 2007-08 and ministers are supporting work to help ensure rates continue to rise to reach by 2013, the 50 per cent improvement anticipated by the taskforce.

A number of initiatives are in place to encourage organ donation. Individuals may sign up to the Organ Donation Register when they register with a new GP, apply for a passport, a European Health Insurance Card or even a Boots advantage card. A prompted choice scheme has been established which requires people to answer a question about organ donation when applying for a driving licence online.

In addition, over 200 highly trained specialist nurses for organ donation are now based in hospitals across the country. Clinical leads for organ donation and donation committees have been appointed in acute hospital to help drive up donation rates locally. A Transitional Steering Group has been established to oversee progress and support concerted action in a number of keys areas to help achieve this goal.

NHS Blood and Transplant is starting to develop a post-strategy 2013, building on the taskforce recommendations but also looking at new ways to encourage as many people as possible to donate to give many more people the opportunity of a transplant.

The independent Organ Donation Taskforce looked at the case for an opt-out system in 2008 and recommended against it.

While acknowledging the potential benefits, the taskforce concluded that such a system would present significant difficulties.

Action is being taken to strengthen the donation programme and we are already seeing significant increases in donor rates. It is important to allow these improvements to be developed fully and to review their success before looking to change the system further.

We recognise it is vital to increase organ donation rates. This Government is committed to working at national, regional and local levels to further build on the promising progress already made.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham

HENRY SMITH

MP for Crawley

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA