Developing a holistic approach to organ donation – consultation launched

Date published: 11 December 2017

The Department of Health has today launched a 12 week consultation on a draft policy statement which sets out a new approach to promoting organ donation and transplantation marking Northern Ireland’s Organ Donation Day on 11 December 2017.

The policy aims to make more life-saving organs available for transplantation, through a coordinated programme of activities designed to improve public awareness of this important health issue and to encourage people to discuss their wishes with their family and friends.

A new statutory duty introduced by the Assembly in 2016 requires the Department to promote organ transplantation by providing information and increasing awareness about donation.

The draft policy proposes a number of commitments through which this can be achieved by enabling structured engagement with all sections of society, in order to promote positive long term change to 2020 and beyond. It focuses on two key objectives:

  • encouraging positive actions and behaviours in relation to organ donation, such as discussing our organ donation wishes with family and close friends, or joining the Organ Donor Register (ODR); and
  • developing and providing appropriate awareness training for healthcare professionals involved along the consent journey

Referring to the consultation document, Dr Paul Glover, Regional Clinical Lead for Organ Donation in Northern Ireland and who chaired the Clinical Advisory Group which developed the draft policy said: “What we are proposing for the first time is an ongoing funded programme of coordinated activities which we really believe can build upon the existing positive attitudes of people in Northern Ireland towards organ donation, and ultimately save and improve more lives. It is important that we hear people’s views at the outset about what they feel will be most effective, as this will help to design and prioritise those activities.”

Organ donation is a gift of life through which one person’s decision can help improve or save the lives of up to nine others. Families will always be asked to give their consent for donation to proceed, and will usually have the opportunity to speak with specially trained healthcare professionals, however in around a third of cases consent is not given. Addressing the reasons for refusal and increasing the rate of family consent in these difficult and sensitive circumstances is one of the main aims of the policy. Achieving the Department’s strategic target of an 80% consent rate by 2020 depends on better education to encourage people to make their wishes known to family and friends, and to provide healthcare professionals with appropriate awareness training in this area.

Speaking about the importance of a coordinated approach to organ donation, kidney transplant surgeon Dr Tim Brown said: “Significant progress has been made in recent years to improve the infrastructure around organ donation in Northern Ireland and we benefit from having generally positive attitudes across our population, however, we still have people waiting on transplants and it is important to maximise all opportunities for donation to occur. Building upon progress is a matter for everyone in our society and through this new policy we simply want to make it easier for people to have an informed conversation with their loved ones.”

The Department would like to encourage everyone to have their say on the commitments contained in the draft policy statement. To assist this process the Department also intends to hold a series of public meetings early in the New Year which will be facilitated by the Health and Social Care Leadership Centre as well as engaging with relevant charities. Further details will be publicised about these public meetings in due course.

The consultation document can be viewed on the Department’s website

Written submissions should be addressed to

Organ Donation Consultation
Department of Health
Room 1, Annex 1
Stormont Estate


For further information contact

Notes to editors: 

1. Part 4 of the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (NI) 2016 placed a statutory duty on the Department of Health to promote organ transplantation by providing information and increasing awareness about donation. To inform these provisions new draft policy guidance (the statement) has been drawn up by the Organ Donation Clinical Advisory Group (ODCAG) which was established in 2016.

2. Members of the ODCAG include Dr Paul Glover (Chair, Regional Clinical Lead for Organ Donation), Dr Tim Brown (Kidney Transplant Surgeon, Belfast Health and Social Care Trust) and Monica Hackett, regional lead Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation (NHS Blood and Transplant).

3. The Department is a signatory to NHS Blood and Transplant’s UK-wide strategy Taking Organ Donation to 20201, 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.

4. If you haven’t already signed the NHS Organ Donor Register or would like more information on organ donation, visit which is packed full of information and resources.

5. For media queries please contact the Department of Health Press Office on 028 90520575 or email For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt


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