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New opt-out law for organ donation announced

5 Aug 2018

The RCN welcomes plans for a soft opt-out system for organ donation but warns that investment in specialist nurses is needed to support an expected increase in transplants.

Close up of a trolley in an A&E department

The UK Government has announced proposals to introduce a new system of consent for organ and tissue donation in England to tackle the shortage of donors and help those waiting for life-saving transplants.

The plans, which are expected to come into effect in spring 2020, will mean consent for organ donation after death is presumed unless the person has opted-out. 

The Government says this better-reflects the views of the majority of the population who are in favour of organ donation. A consultation carried out by the RCN earlier this year found that 71% of members who took part were in favour of moving to a soft opt-out system, with safeguards including communication campaigns and training for staff.

RCN Chief Executive Janet Davies said: “Nursing staff overwhelmingly support moving to a soft opt-out system for organ donation.

“But the patient journey does not end when they receive a transplant. They need lifetime support and care to ensure transplanted organs are not rejected and life with their new organ is lived well.

“Specialist nurses play a key role in delivering care before and after transplant. To enable the predicted increase in organs for donation the Government must provide increased financial investment into this vital workforce.”

The opt-out system will exclude children under 18, individuals who lack the mental capacity to understand the changes and people who have not lived in England for at least 12 months before their death.

Proposals include an option on the NHS organ donor register for people to state important religious and cultural beliefs to ensure they are respected and there will be strict safeguards in place.

Janet added: “We welcome the commitment to clear conditions and safeguards to ensure the new system is fair to patients and to donors. We now look forward to working with the Department of Health and Social Care in implementing and supporting the roll-out of this life-saving service.”

Page last updated - 30/08/2018