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Does the Government have the guts to introduce an opt-out scheme by 2019?

Does the Government have the guts to introduce an opt-out scheme by 2019?

Sophie-Rose Feary | Dods Monitoring

4 min read

Pressure continues to build for England to introduce an op-out organ donation scheme, writes Dods Monitoring's Sophie-Rose Feary.

The subject of organ donation is not a usual topic at your family dinner, but a recent surge in interest has got the Government's blood pumping, and it is an issue they will have to be willing to tackle head on.

Back in 2017, the Mirror’s launched its ‘Change the Law for Life’ campaign and since then Parliament has seen growing pressure to adopt the opt-out system with support of many key politicians across the political spectrum. The Welsh Government adopted the system in 2015 with the Evaluation of Human Tissue Act in Wales, and Scotland followed in 2018 with the passing of both the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill.

Currently, England remains in a system that requires opting in or contracting. However, strides have been made to show the Government’s commitment to tackle the issue. The Prime Minister launched a public consultation on the creation of a new opt-out system for organ donation in England at the end of 2017, and whilst the conclusions have yet to be made public, it is expected that England will soon follow the path that has been set by devolved governments.  

However, there remains disagreement about whether the system is compatible with families’ rights and whether the system fulfils its aim of increasing donors. The BBC reported in December 2017 that numbers of organ donors in Wales had not significantly increased since the Evaluation of Human Tissue Act was passed. Whilst it may be too early to tell how effective the system is, the pressure on the UK Government to act has not disappeared.

Recently the momentum has been picked up by Bedford MP, Mohammad Yasin. Yet, Yasin’s focus hasn’t been on the UK adopting an opt-out scheme but on highlighting another issue in the debate, the low number of BAME donors.

The absence of BAME donors across the blood, stem cell and organ donation in the NHS, has become a growing concern for the NHS and an issue that if tackled, could provide the NHS with some much-needed relief.

The NHS Blood and Transplant have stated that “people from Black and Asian communities are more likely to develop conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis than white people. This makes them more likely to need a transplant.” In contrast, a report done by NHSBT reveals that only seven percent of donors last year were from a BAME background.

Yasin has been particularly active in this call, opening a debate in Westminster and writing an article for Politics Home calling for an end to silence. Yasin’s article did not even mention an opt-out scheme, instead focusing on a review that found that a lack of knowledge or awareness, religious permissibility and lack of trust in the medical institution were the three main areas preventing people signing up.

These findings have been picked up by the Government who recently released its new strategy for increasing organ donation rates within black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. The programme will be delivered by NHS Blood and Transplant with support from the National BAME Transplant Alliance (NBTA) and will focus on raising awareness and breaking down barriers to donation in the communities.

This new strategy is being welcomed by those that have pressured the Government to act on organ donation, but with calls to introduce a new opt-out system set to remain consistent, many hope to see an introduction to such a scheme in England before the year is out. 


If your organisation needs to keep abreast of political and policy developments, Dods Monitoring can offer intelligence to keep you one step ahead. Find out more here.

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