Regular visitors to this blog will know of my implacable opposition to the Welsh Gov't's proposals to introduce 'presumed consent' into the organ donation system in Wales. It will not increase the number of organs available for donation - no matter how often the opposite is stated by supporters of the change, there is not a shred of evidence to support the contention that it will. Developing and maintaining an 'Opt-out' register is a waste of money and it could well do damage to the organ donation system across the UK. I am discussing this aspect with the Minister in a few days time. But there can be no disagreement about the wonderful initiative taken by ITV this week in support of organ donation. It is the most positive step taken in support since the reports published by the Organ Donation Taskforce in 2008.
I want every potential organ donor's next of kin throughout the UK to be asked to allow organs to be taken from brain dead bodies in Intensive Care Units as a matter of course. And there must be trained co-ordinators available at every site to ensure the approach is carried out as sensitively and professionally as possible. Professional training is crucial train co-ordinators to manage what will always inevitably be a traumatic situation. I also want as much effort (and money) put into promoting campaigns based on 'Tell your Family' - particularly in BME communities. The key to reducing the refusal rates of next of kin to allow organs to be donated is to reduce the shock of being asked. This is the key change which has produced such excellent results in Spain (world's best) and underpinned the improvements we have seen in the UK - particularly in Wales. What ITV have done this week is beyond my wildest hopes. If it had been advertising space paid for, it would probably have cost about as much as the Welsh Gov't's annual budget.
There is a huge unmet demand for donated organs. Eventually, stem cell research may resolve the problems, but in the meantime, we depend on donation, often altruistically from live donors ( of kidneys). ITV's 'From The Heart' campaign aims to raise awareness of organ donation. A main aim is to encourage everyone to talk to their loved ones about their wishes. There is a range of programmes all week on prime time TV, covering all aspects of organ donation - after working with NHS Blood and Transplant, the body responsible for the NHS Organ donation Register. Just brilliant. I called at a dinner to congratulate and thank Phil Henphrey, Head of News and Programmes for ITV Wales and West to congratulate him and the broadcaster on the wonderful service they have provided to the nation, and particularly to all those waiting for a transplant.