The NHS has launched a new initiative to increase the number of child donors within the UK.
It’s the last thing any parent wants to consider, but signing a child up for organ donation could mean saving another life should the unthinkable happen.
Parents are being urged to make commitment, as new figures show the number currently donating within the UK has not improved in years.
Although donations from adults are up by a fifth since 2003/4, the figure for children donors has remained stagnant.
NHS Blood and Transplant has launched a new strategy to accelerate the number of organ donations among under 18s, as a result of recent troubling findings coming to the surface.
In the UK today, there are 177 children waiting for an organ transplant – and in 2017/18, 17 children died while waiting for a transplant.
In the same year, organs donated by 57 children resulted in 200 transplant operations, however there has hardly been any increase since 2013/14, which saw 55 child donors.
The findings also discovered while adults on the urgent heart transplant list typically wait 29 days for a new heart, children wait for up to 70 days.
Health secretary, Matt Hancock, has said it is ‘heartbreaking’ that hundreds of sick children and infants are waiting for an organ right now. The need for more young donors is integral, as children and babies need organs that match their size.
Measures taken by NHS Blood and Transplant as a part of its new initiative has included more support for families and dedicated training on organ donation for clinical staff caring for paediatric patients.
Closer work with coroners will also be carried out. Coroners can currently refuse organ donation if they are investigating the death of a child. It is hoped, however, that a consensus can be reached whereby organ donation could take place while simultaneously preventing the work of the coroner from being compromised.
Discussing the issue, Hancock has stated: ‘I completely understand how difficult it is to even contemplate losing a child, let alone think about what happens afterwards.
‘But we must not shy away from this difficult, and potentially life-saving, conversation.’
The health secretary continued: ‘Hundreds of young lives were saved last year because of the selfless actions of 57 families. We must find the strength to have the incredibly difficult conversations that have the potential to save the lives of children and babies.’
Children can join the NHS organ donor register, although parents must give their consent first.
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