Belfast now a world leader in living donation due to ‘selfless’ kidney donors and ‘exceptional’ Transplant Team: #WorldKidneyDay

Date published: 14 March 2019

Northern Ireland Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, congratulated Northern Ireland’s “selfless” kidney donors who have given over two thousand people the gift of life as celebrations took place on World Kidney Day today, Thursday 14 March 2019.

It is 50 years since the transplant programme was established in Belfast and during that time over 2,400 kidney transplants have been performed on patients ageing from two years to almost 80 years.  From that figure, 661 kidneys have been donated by living donors - this is when a healthy person gives one of their two kidneys to someone who needs a transplant. Remarkably 545 people in Northern Ireland have received this gift of life in the last ten years, often from someone they know, but some from a complete stranger.

Professor McArdle paid tribute to the Living Donor Transplant Team at Belfast City Hospital. “Belfast is now a world leader in living donation. Kidney Transplant Consultant Dr Aisling Courtney and her team have transformed the living donation programme in Belfast. This was recognised recently when she was awarded the first UK award for Excellence in Organ Donation and Transplantation. In addition, Dr Paul Glover was named Exceptional Clinical Lead for Organ Donation. Congratulations to everyone involved.

“We are very lucky in Northern Ireland to have a truly exceptional Transplant Team and we are also extremely lucky to have the highest number of living kidney donors per head of population across the world. People donate kidneys for many reasons. Some give to someone they love and others give to complete strangers. Their selfless actions save so many lives and I am very touched by this.

“I would like to mark World Kidney Day by saying a huge thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those donors who have donated a kidney to others. This is the absolute greatest and kindest gift that anyone can give and can totally transform the lives of people needing a kidney transplant.  And I hope many more people join the organ donor register.”

Dr Aisling Courtney, Kidney Transplant Consultant at Belfast City Hospital, said: “It is hard to overestimate the difference that having a transplant makes compared to being on dialysis therapy. It is transformational.

“Northern Ireland has made fantastic progress in living donation transplants over recent years, but there are still many people on dialysis across Northern Ireland waiting for a kidney transplant. I would encourage people to sign up to the Organ Donor Register, and talk to their family about their wishes. And of course, consider being a kidney donor now, when they are still alive and in good health. 

“The recent local television documentary “Life on the List” followed a number of our patients at different stages in their treatment pathway, and revealed the process involved in giving a kidney to someone else. The generosity of people in Northern Ireland was again demonstrated as, following the programme, over 80 individuals volunteered to undergo the tests to see if they are suitable to give a kidney to someone in need of a transplant,” said Dr Courtney.    

Not everyone who is suitable to donate a kidney is a suitable ‘match’ for their friend/family member. The UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme, identifies possible ‘kidney-swaps’ between such donor-recipient pairs allowing more people to benefit from living donor transplantation. In Belfast 89 transplants have taken place because of this kidney exchange scheme, more than any other transplant centre in the UK.

Commending the Transplant Team on their success, Dr Miriam McCarthy, Interim Director of Commissioning, Health and Social Care Board, said: “On behalf of the Board, I wish to commend this team of experts on their continued achievements.  We have a tremendously high quality renal transplant programme here in Northern Ireland, coupled with an exceptional Surgical Transplant Team.  The investment provided by the HSCB has supported the transformation of the renal transplant service and has changed immeasurably the day to day lives of the transplanted patients and their families.”

Further information about organ donation in Northern Ireland, including useful resources, FAQs, videos and how to join the Organ Donor Register is available at:  or    

Notes to editors: 

1. The Department is a signatory to NHS Blood and Transplant’s UK-wide strategy Taking Organ Donation to 2020, which calls for a revolution in attitudes to consent to donation, and advocates a sustained and well-coordinated programme of communication activities to promote organ donation across all parts of the UK.

2. The latest statistics for Northern Ireland can be found at

3. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office team on 028 9052 0579 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer on 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.  Follow us on Twitter @healthdpt  or you can contact the Belfast Trust Media Office on 028 90 63 6464 or Out of Hours, phone 028 9056 5656.

Share this page

Back to top