Transplant service short of necessary staff and equipment

The Guardian has reported that potential organ donations are at risk because UK hospitals are extremely short of transplant surgeons and specialist nurses.

Having seen an unpublished NHS Blood and Transplant document, the paper claims that teams of organ retrieval specialists are facing ‘extreme stress’ while understaffed transplant centres are struggling to keep up with existing demand.

Legislation is currently passing through Parliament which would change organ donation policy from opt-in to opt-out, potentially saving up to 500 people a year from dying unnecessarily and shifting the balance of presumption. The legislation has the backing of Prime Minister Theresa May and the majority of health leaders.

However, the Guardian says that the paper warns of not being able to harvest all of the increased number of organs that are expected after presumed consent becomes law, mainly as a result of hospitals remaining increasingly short of key specialists and equipment needed to keep organs viable. It also finds that England’s 27 transplant units face a potential ‘failure to transplant all retrieved organs arising from an increase in donors’ because of a lack of ‘staff [and] ward capacity’.

The 18-page analysis also reveals that: transplant units will need to hire 30 nurses who specialise in organ donation as well as extra managers to cope with increased availability of donor organs; hospitals will need more perfusion machines, which keep blood pumping around the organ or organs to be taken from someone who has recently died, in order to ensure they can be transplanted; and that NHSBT’s operational hub at its Bristol headquarters, which supervises organ donation on a 24/7 basis, will also need more staff.

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