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'Talk to your loved ones about organ donation' Last week, figures released by NHS Blood and Transplant showed that the number of deceased organ donors in Wales has fallen by more than 20% in the past year. With presumed consent still two years from being brought in, doctors say it is important that people think about - and talk about - leaving organs for donation.

THE latest figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show149 patients received organs from 52 deceased organ donors between April 2012 and March 2013 - a fall of 22% compared to the previous year, when there were 67 deceased donors.

The figures follow last month's vote by AMs in favour of introducing a system of presumed consent for organ donation in Wales in a bid to drive up the number of donors.

One man who knows better than most about the importance of organ donation in saving lives is Michael Stephens, one of Wales' leading kidney transplant surgeons.

The Cardiff Transplant Unit, where Mr Stephens is based, provides kidney and pancreas transplant surgery for 2.4 million people in South and West Wales.

He said: "We have developed a very proactive and innovative transplant programme in Cardiff for patients needing a kidney or pancreas transplant and this has undoubtedly been helped by increases in local donor numbers over the past few years. This approach has been rewarded with rates of both kidney and pancreas transplantation that consistently exceeds the other UK countries, and we are very proud of this achievement.

"We are doing a lot of things right here in Wales when it comes to organ donation in practice. In addition to the success we have seen with kidney and pancreas transplants, we have the highest rate of both heart and liver donors in the UK, although this does not always equate to higher rates of heart and liver transplants.

"We must be mindful that there are many more patients in need of organ transplants and there are undoubtedly elements which need to be improved as we move forward. These include raising our low consent rates and ensuring greater involvement of Specialist Nurses for Organ Donation (SNOD) in helping families with the extremely difficult decision making process."

Mr Stephens said that with the changes being brought in, it was vital that people discussed their wishes with their families.

He said: "The organ donation process is both clinically challenging and emotionally charged for many families. The chances of someone becoming an organ donor is incredibly rare, the fact there were only 52 donors last year in the whole of Wales is proof in itself. Any opportunity lost along the way has a huge knock on effect on our organ donation success here in Wales as for anye else.

"The Welsh Government'sosed soft opt out legisn is still two years away implementation and one keys aims is to help clarify dual wishes regarding ordonation.

rates where "Th propo lation from of its k indivi gan d ions o but r largem would donor "Un don't relativ emoti famili wishe impac ingnes sent r Individual opinon organ donation vary research shows that the majority of the population d be willing to be an organ r. "Unfortunately they often iscuss their wishes with ves and the additional ional stress caused for ies by not knowing the es of the deceased can ct directly on their willss to consent. Lower conrates in turn reduce the number of potential organ donors and lives saved.

"The position I would like to see us achieve in Wales is one where the wishes of each individual are known, whether it be by means of the organ donor register (either opting in or opting out) or by informing their relatives. If nothing else, I would advise everybody to talk to their loved ones about their organ donation wishes."

Following the NHSBT figures, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said they would feed into the work over the next two years as Wales prepares to bring in the opt-out system.

He said: "Over the last five years, the numbers of deceased organ donors in Wales has followed generally positive trend, but as these figures show they cannot be taken for granted year on year.

"Fluctuations in these figures are to be expected and, because the numbers involved in these statistics are relatively small, slight changes in numbers can affect the overall picture greatly.

"The trend, rather than single year changes, tells the important story. We believe a system of deemed consent is the most effective way to increase the numbers of organs available for transplant and save lives."

"My focus remains on delivering long term and sustainable increases in organ donation numbers here."

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 19, 2013
Words:734
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