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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Where Wales leads...

As this report makes clear, it is most probably too early to properly assess the impact of introducing deemed consent for organ donation in Wales. The report says that although awareness of and support for the change in the law is high, this has dropped off recently as the law settles down and publicity for it is less intense. The authors also suggest that NHS staff working within organ donation may also benefit from further training, particularly around the organ donation conversation with the family.

They add that despite the high awareness and support for the new law, analysis of routine data does not show any consistent change in deceased organ donations in Wales, or more widely from Welsh residents. Analysis of consent data does show an increase in the percentage of families giving approval for donation. However, this is not reflected in a rise in donors overall, implying there has been lower eligibility over the period since implementation of the law.

They believe that a longer period of time is needed to draw firmer conclusions around the impact of the change in the law and that it will be important to continue to monitor public attitudes and the routine data on organ donation in Wales (and more generally across other parts of the UK for comparison).

Despite that impressions about the approach remain favourable, so much so that there are now moves to introduce presumed consent in England, with the support of both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn. As the Telegraph reports, Ministers there believe that this could save 200 extra lives every year:

Jackie Doyle-Price, a health minister, confirmed the Government is backing the move to presumed consent as she set out the potential benefits.

She told MPs: “As I have made clear we are supporting this Bill. We are determined to ensure that we secure more organs available for transplant because we are very concerned that we are losing lives unnecessarily.”

Currently there is an opt-in system for organ donation in England which means people need to give consent by joining the NHS Organ Donor Register or by telling a relative or close friend about their decision to donate.

Opt-out laws are already in place in Wales and Scotland and Ms Doyle-Price said it was “too early to draw any conclusions about the number of organs that the change in Wales has secured”.

However, she added: “Our best estimates are that this change will secure an additional 100 donors a year which could lead to the saving of 200 extra lives.

Irrespective of whether these predictions come to pass or not, it makes sense for England to switch to the same system as Scotland and Wales. That is because the organ bank is a UK-wide resource. In other words, organs donated in Wales do not necessarily stay this side of Offa's Dyke.

Once more devolved governments have led the way and made it possible for the UK Government to stick its neck out and follow suit. That is the added value provided by devolution.
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