The Department of Health has published a new policy which will see a £250,000 programme of coordinated activities put in place to increase organ donors across Northern Ireland.
This is the first time there has been a dedicated recurrent fund designed to sustain the promotion of organ donation.
The Department’s announcement coincides with Northern Ireland’s annual Organ Donation Discussion Day - 11 December. “Tell Your Loved Ones” is the key message of this patient-led day of celebration, commemoration and conversation about organ donation which encourages everyone to take a moment to discuss their organ donation wishes with their family and friends.
Helping families with this important discussion is central to the Department’s new policy which aims to make more organs available for life-saving transplants by increasing the overall rate of consent for donation to proceed.
Launching the new policy, Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride said: “One donor can help improve or save the lives of up to nine others.
“While Northern Ireland leads the world in live kidney donation and transplantation around a third of families don’t give consent after the death of a loved one. In these difficult circumstances, recalling a conversation with their loved about their wishes in relation to organ donation can often make a family’s decision more comfortable.
“We want to do more to inform organ donation discussion and to assist the families who are faced with this decision which can help make a hugely positive difference to the lives of others.
“The funding announced today comes on the back of the public’s support for this approach voiced through our public consultation. It will further raise awareness about organ donation as well providing training for healthcare professionals involved in the consent journey.
“Today signifies a major step forward for Organ Donation in Northern Ireland.”
Co-founder of organ donation trust, Opt for Life Foundation and the 11 December initiative, Shane Finnegan, said: "Two key components in increasing life-saving transplants are ensuring the infrastructure is in place to support the organ donor process and investment to increase awareness and encourage society to embrace the merits of transplantation. The Department’s policy announcement, on this day December 11 which is set aside to encourage people to have the conversation with their loves ones support those key components and most importantly, they support the invaluable role of specialist nurses and doctors in increasing organ donors and saving lives.
"Organ donation can only be a gift, freely given, from one family to another and that is why we want to ensure that people let their loved ones know what their wishes are on organ donation as the consent rate rises significantly when families have that all important conversation."
Dr Catherine Coyle, Public Health Agency Lead for Organ Donation, said: “It is encouraging that current statistics show 45% of the Northern Ireland population have signed the Organ Donor Register, however to give more people the chance of receiving an organ this figure needs to increase.
“The policy and accompanying funding from the Department of Health will help raise public awareness of the need to sign the Organ Donor Register, and of equal importance, will encourage people to let their loved ones know their wishes to be an organ donor.
“While knowing that their loved ones have signed the Organ Donor Register can enable families to give consent, we would also encourage people to talk to their family about their wish to be an organ donor, as this can provide extra reassurance that they are making a decision which reflects their loved one’s wishes at what is a very difficult time.
“The announcement today is all the more appropriate as it is ‘Tell Your Loved Ones‘ day, so we hope even more of those conversations will happen across Northern Ireland."
Notes to editors:
1. This new funding will help the Department meet its new statutory obligations as outlined in the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 2016.
2. The Promoting Human Organ Donation and Transplantation in Northern Ireland policy guidance statement and summary of responses to the consultation can be viewed on the Department of Health website.
3. Further information about organ donation in Northern Ireland, including useful resources, FAQs, videos and how to join the Organ Donor Register is available at the Organ Donation NI website.
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