Tissue Donation - Information for Healthcare Professionals

Gail Mander 16 Feb 2021

Up to 50 people can benefit from tissue donated from 1 donor, but despite the amazing benefits that tissue donation can bring and the comfort that donation can give to bereaved families, it is a subject that many health care professionals know little about. 

On May 20th, 2020 the law around organ and tissue donation in England changed, moving to an opt-out system. This change opens up many questions for health care professionals, particularly those looking after patients at the end of life. This presentation helps nurses understand what tissue donation is, their responsibilities in relation to the legislation, and how they can ensure tissue donation is incorporated into everyday practice.

I first developed my interest in organ and tissue donation when I worked in Critical Care. I was particularly interested in end of life care in critical care and saw first-hand how and organ and tissue donation could bring hope and purpose to bereaved families. In 2010 I joined NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), initially as a Specialist Nurse Organ Donation and then in 2016 as a Regional Nurse Specialist in Tissue Donation.

I feel very privileged to be part of an amazing team of nurses and be instrumental in supporting so many families through the donation process. Every year around 4,500 corneas are used to improve the vision and restore the sight in patients who would otherwise face blindness. Many others benefit from life changing surgery due to the selfless generosity of our donors. I know that these families have gained great comfort from knowing that the death of their loved one has not been in vain and that donation has transformed the lives of so many patients whose lives were on hold waiting for a transplant.

On May 20th 2020, the law around organ and tissue donation in England changed, moving to an opt-out system. Despite this there remains an acute shortage of suitable tissue donors, and many people are waiting longer for the surgeries that will transform their lives. We are still reliant on Health care professionals having discussions with patients and their families around donation and sadly many patients who could donate are being denied the opportunity to do so.

Unlike organ donation, tissue donors do not have to die in a hospital setting. Many healthcare professionals are unaware that patients reaching the end of life, may still be able to donate tissue after their death, even if they are elderly or have pre-existing medical conditions. The law change is an opportunity to save and improve even more lives and this presentation aims to break down some of the myths around tissue donation and empower nurses to incorporate this into everyday practice.

Further resources

Gail Mander

Gail Mander

Hospital Development Nurse Practitioner, Tissue and Eye Services - NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT)

Gail is one of 5 Regional Specialist Nurses who work with Healthcare Professionals to set up referral pathways for tissue donation. Gail works mainly with hospitals and hospices in London and the South East but also works closely with other Specialist Nurses within NHSBT. She has developed a specialist education and resource package around tissue donation and delivers training on tissue donation to Specialist Nurses, Organ Donation.

Page last updated - 22/02/2021