This article was co-written by Grant Shapps and Boris Johnson. It was first published on the Huffington Post website on 10 November 2014.
It’s said that nothing in this world is certain, except death and taxes, but unnecessary death needn’t be inevitable. Three people die every day due to a shortage of donor organs and there is something each of us could do to prevent it.
No one likes to dwell on what they’d like to happen to their body after they die – we like to push it to the back of our mind. But people suffering from serious illnesses, or families of people involved in life-threatening accidents, have no such luxury. The availability of organs can, quite literally, be a matter of life or death.
Most people are in favour of organ donation and say they would consider donating some or all of their organs when they die. But the situation is worse than people think, and hundreds of people die each year because of the lack of organs. It also makes it harder if people have not discussed organ donation with their families, making a family’s decision to donate more difficult if and when the time comes.
A trip around Great Ormond Street hospital visiting children who are desperate for a transplant is enough to tug anyone’s heartstrings and inspire them to spread the word and get on the register. But thankfully most of us don’t all spend our lives wandering around hospitals and many of us are just not aware of the struggle others have waiting for a donor. If more people were to realise the difference that registering as an organ donor could make, and how a simple click of the mouse could transform the lives of up to nine people we wouldn’t be in this situation.
That’s why we continue to alert people to this national problem and find new ways of encouraging people to help. In order to look for new ways to encourage people to help, the Government has already worked with the Behavioural Insights team - the ‘nudge unit’ – to examine how to boost organ donation registrations through behaviour change. It was one of the largest ever public sector studies of this kind with over one million people taking part who were tested on eight different ways of asking whether to join the register. The results showed that asking people to put themselves in someone else’s position had the greatest impact on behaviour– so imagining how you would feel if you couldn’t get a donor match was a real factor in getting people to sign up.
Today we are spreading the word to Londoners and asking them to join the NHS Organ Donor register. Across the UK there are around 7,000 people waiting for transplants – with 1 in 5 living in London. But only 26% of people living in London have joined the register, compared to 32% across the rest of the UK. One of the reasons that people in other areas have already signed up is because since January 2013, people who renew their road tax or apply for a driving licence online have been prompted to add their name to the Register. It’s had brilliant results with over 760,000 signing up. We know that car ownership is lower in London, which is why from today people will get the opportunity to sign up when they visit the Oyster Online or Contactless pages on the TfL website
If we can make sure that as many people as possible know how to register and we make it easily accessible to them in their everyday lives we really will be able to make a real difference and save lives.