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RCN UK position on consent for organ and tissue donation after death

 Melanie Johnson 29 Mar 2018

Melanie Johnson, Chair of the RCN Professional Nursing Committee, shares how member views shaped our new position.

RCN position on consent for organ and tissue donation
I was privileged to Chair the RCN Professional Nursing Committee’s discussion on consent for organ and tissue donation after death at our March meeting and to see yesterday’s publication of the new RCN position we agreed. This debate gets to the heart of our work as a professional committee and, given how topical this issue is at the moment, our discussion was timely.

We were delighted to hear the voice of so many RCN members shaping our response to this issue and we respect the sensitivities, and often personal experiences, that this subject evokes for many.

Clearly members did not give a unanimous verdict. But, whether members had direct experience of the opt-out in Wales, or were considering what an opt-out might mean in other parts of the UK, we were struck that, across all four countries, support for the opt-out was consistently and overwhelmingly high. Adding safeguards around this increased support even more.

The position we came to in our discussions reflects absolutely what members have told us: Yes, an opt-out could help increase donation rates, but it must be accompanied by other conditions – including investment in required infrastructure, more Specialist Nurses in Organ Donation, and an evaluation of the impact of the opt-out to inform the future.

There must also be clear protections built into the system, such as limiting the scheme to adults, discussing donation with families and excluding people who haven’t had the capacity to consent.

When many of our members simply don’t feel confident in talking with patients about these issues, and the vast majority think that patients haven’t given much thought to donation, we are also clear that ongoing awareness and education campaigns, for nursing and for the public, will be key to supporting the potential of an opt-out to increase donation rates.

Now the RCN will work hard to ensure that this position helps to influence improvements in organ and tissue donation rates across the UK. I would like to thank every member who took the time to share their views and shape the RCN’s new position.

Find out more

Read the new RCN UK position on consent for organ and tissue donation after death.

Read about the RCN Professional Nursing Committee.




Melanie Johnson, Chair of the RCN Professional Nursing Committee

Melanie Johnson

Chair of the Professional Nursing Committee

Director of Nursing and Patient Experience for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust

After qualifying as a registered nurse in 1985 at St Thomas’ Hospital London, Melanie Johnson RGN MSc BA(Hons) held a variety of clinical and management posts in London and Leeds.

She was Director of Nursing in Newcastle Hospitals Foundation Trust and in NHS Lothian Health Board based in Edinburgh before joining City Hospitals Sunderland in January 2016 as Executive Director of Nursing and Quality.

Now as Executive Director of Nursing and Patient Experience for South Tyneside and Sunderland Healthcare Group, since November 2016, she is the professional lead for nursing and allied health professionals and executive lead for patient experience, research and innovation and safeguarding.

Her key professional interests are the unique contribution of the registered nurse, safe staffing levels, and leadership.  



Page last updated - 05/09/2018