Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Log in
Home › News › On World Kidney Day, leading surgeons call for more to be done to raise organ donation awareness

On World Kidney Day, leading surgeons call for more to be done to raise organ donation awareness

14 March 2013

Only three per cent of British adults would, under no circumstances, accept an organ transplant and as little as eight per cent would completely rule out donating their organs when they die, finds a survey conducted by ICM on behalf of the British Transplantation Society. Despite the overwhelming willingness to give or accept an organ, only 35 per cent of those surveyed are on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

The poll exposes the striking shortage of public information about organ donation, with half of respondents stating that they don’t know how to sign up to the Organ Donor Register. Additionally, 60 per cent of those surveyed hadn’t seen any advertising or information about the Organ Donor Register in the last six months.

On World Kidney Day, with 6,193people in the UK waiting for a suitable kidney to become available, The British Transplantation Society is calling on the Government to invest in a nationwide public awareness campaign to raise the profile of organ donation.

Figures obtained by the British Transplantation Society under Freedom of Information Act reveal that money spent by Government on organ donation campaigns in England is at its lowest level for four years – from almost six million at its height to around £350,000 in this financial year. Yet the positive impact of public awareness initiatives on registration rates is clear as the ‘Prove It’ campaign in early 2010 directly produced an extra 80,936 additions to the Register.

Professor Chris Watson, President of the British Transplantation Society and Professor of Transplantation at Cambridge University, said:

“Between 2011 and 2012, 508people died while waiting for an organ to become available. This highlights the huge unmet need we have for donors in the UK. That half of those surveyed don’t even know how to sign up to the Organ Donor register must act as a wake up call to Government. We are not blind to the fact that budgets are tight and spending cuts have to be made, but the human cost of doing nothing to address this lack of awareness is just too great.”

Respondents to the poll were asked what they felt would be the best way to get people to sign up to the Organ Donor Register. TV information campaigns were considered the most effective method, with the next most popular being GPs raising the issue during a routine checkup.

The poll also revealed that as little as 18 per cent of British adults have had specific conversations with their family regarding organ donation, yet over a third were sure that, in the event of their death, their family would definitely know their wishes.

This assumption may help explain why even the families of potential organ donors who have signed up to the Organ Donor Register refuse donation in 17 per cent of cases. “I would urge people who want to help someone live after their death to talk to their family and friends about it. If you register your wishes without telling the people closest to you, it may come as a surprise at a time when they are trying to deal with their loss,” added Professor Watson.

According to figures from February 2013, 7,431 people in the UK are waiting for transplants.

You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by calling the Organ Donor Line on 0300 123 2323 or by visiting the UK Transplant website.

Notes to Editors

1 House of Commons written answer from 4/3/2013. Read the full exchange.

2 Figures for the financial year up to March 2012. Source: NHSBT Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2011/12

View a full breakdown of the ICM survey results.

ICM interviewed a nationally representative sample of 2024 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 1st – 3rd March 2013. Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

The British Transplantation Society is the professional voice of transplantation in the UK, representing all the varied disciplines in transplantation including clinicians, nurses, pharmacists, scientists involved both in basic research and in histocompatibility laboratories, ethicists and other professions allied to medicine.

For more information, please contact the Royal College of Surgeons press office on:
• 020 7869 6047/ 6052
• Out-of hours: 07966 486 832