Opt-out organ donation for England

AN opt-out organ donation scheme is expected to come into effect in England in the spring of 2020.

The government has outlined plans to implement a new system of consent for organ and tissue donation in which everyone is considered an organ donor unless they have explicitly recorded a wish not to be or are from one of three excluded groups. These include children under 18, individuals who lack the mental capacity to understand the changes and people who have not lived in England for at least 12 months before their death.

The donor register will include an option for individuals to state important religious and cultural beliefs to ensure these are respected, and specialist nurses will discuss donation with families to ensure individual wishes are respected.

A 12-month transition period will allow time for discussion with friends and family about organ donation preferences. Patients wishing to opt-out will be able to do so on the NHS Organ Donor Register, either via the NHS Blood and Transplant website or by calling a helpline. The new NHS app expected to be launched at the end of this year will also allow patients record their decision.

Jackie Doyle-Price, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Mental Health and Inequalities, said: "Organ donation saves lives. We believe that by making these changes, we can save as many as 700 more lives every year."

RCP president Professor Dame Jane Dacre welcomed the government’s plans to tackle the shortage in donors in England. She said: "Any new system for recording and acting on advance decisions must be robust and well managed, and handled sensitively by health professionals. Implementation will benefit from better training for health professionals and an information campaign for the public."