Press release

Celebrities back Christmas campaign for more organ donors

A new campaign to raise awareness of organ donation and boost the numbers of registered organ donors launches with support from celebrities.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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Celebrities, including Sol Campbell and Boris Johnson, have lent their support to an online campaign to raise awareness of organ donation in the UK, as new figures reveal that 4,000 people are spending their second Christmas or more waiting for a life-saving organ transplant.

The campaign asks people to post a picture of their Christmas list online - made up of 3 wishes (#donationwish), 2 supporting organ donation and 1 fun wish - and to let their loved ones know that they want to be an organ donor and help to save others’ lives.

The total number of people waiting for an organ transplant is 6,909, and despite increases in the number of people benefiting from an organ transplant, 3 people still die needlessly every day before they get the organ they need – that’s over 1,000 people every year.

The government is committed to boosting numbers on the organ donor register to save more lives. That’s why, thanks to a drive by Cabinet Office Minister Grant Shapps, people are now prompted to join the register when they apply online for services including applying for passports, registering to vote, booking a practical driving test, renewing their Oyster card or going over to contactless payment with Transport for London. This is in addition to people who already see a prompt when renewing their driving licence or tax disc online.

Cabinet Office Minister Grant Shapps said:

People die needlessly every year due to a shortage of organs – something that could be avoided simply by encouraging more people to join the Organ Donor Register. That’s why I have spoken to the Prime Minister and colleagues across government to ask for their help in making it easier for people to sign up to donate their organs and save more lives.

People will now be able to sign up when they apply online for a passport, register to vote, renew their driving licence or renew their Oyster card.

In October alone, the services on GOV.UK with links to the organ donation register were seen 165,000 times. Civil servants will also be encouraged to support the initiative to find more organ donors and will be asked to consider becoming donors themselves.

The government is in discussions with departments to use prompts and links to the Organ Donor Register at the end of transactions for new digital services. This follows a highly successful trial on the DVLA website that resulted in over 830,000 people signing up to the register.

Public Health Minister Jane Ellison said:

Around 7,000 people in the UK are waiting for an organ transplant and 3 people a day die before they get the organ they need.

I would urge everyone to think about joining the NHS organ donor register as it would make a huge difference – 1 donor can save or transform up to 9 lives.

The government is also urging more families to have a discussion about their organ donation wishes so that more transplants can be carried out. The latest figures show that families are much more likely to agree to donation going ahead if they know it is what their loved one wanted.

In the last year, more than 40% of families approached about organ donation said ‘no’ to donating a loved one’s organs. However, 95% of families said ‘yes’ when their loved one’s decision to donate was known through their being on the NHS Organ Donor Register and having had a discussion with them.

In January 2013 the government tasked the ‘Nudge Unit’ (Behavioural Insights Team) to run a trial to see what would influence more people to register as organ donors. Working with the DVLA, the Government Digital Service and NHS Blood and Transplant, a number of word and visual prompts were trialled to determine which increased the likelihood of people choosing to follow a link to sign up. Results showed that asking people to put themselves in someone else’s position had the greatest impact on behaviour.

Since the trial began, over 830,000 people applying online for a driving licence or to renew their car tax have responded to the new online prompt and followed it to register to join the Organ Donor Register.

Notes to editors

  • The link to the campaign webpage is bit.ly/donationwish
  • More than 20.8 million people in the UK have already signed on to the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR). This records the details of people who have registered their wishes to donate organs and/or tissue after their death for transplantation. This information is used by authorised medical staff to establish whether a person wanted to donate.
  • Anyone can register on the ODR. Age isn’t a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. People in their 70s and 80s have become donors and saved many lives.
  • One donor can save or transform up to 9 lives and many more can be helped through the donation of tissues.
  • There are currently around 7,000 people in the UK waiting for an organ transplant. This figure changes constantly though, as people join and leave the transplant waiting list.
  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the whole of the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
Published 29 December 2014