Secretary of State Launches Commonwealth Project To Increase Organ Donation

This Commonwealth Day [Monday 14th March] NHS Blood and Transplant is proud to launch a new international project called Tribute to Life – bringing together Commonwealth nations to share expertise in organ donation and transplantation, ultimately saving more lives.

The Commonwealth Tribute to Life Project is the culmination of three years’ work and represents a huge step towards obtaining health equality, both within the UK and the Commonwealth. 

This project provides a framework for the sharing of knowledge and expertise to increase ethical organ donation and transplantation. It seeks to further health equality for the benefit of all Commonwealth citizens.

Countries are pledging to sign a Memorandum of Understanding that will take effect at the start of the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, with 42 of the 54 countries making the pledge so far.

Today, participants from around the Commonwealth are holding a virtual launch event with the official launch by Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid MP.

An official legacy project of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and part of the Games ‘United By Birmingham 2022’ community programme, Tribute to Life presents a unique opportunity to increase levels of organ and tissue donation and transplantation globally.

The World Health Organisation Global Observatory on Donation and Transplantation estimates that there were over 146,000 organs transplanted in 2018 worldwide. This gift of life came from the generosity of over 40,000 living donors and nearly 39,000 deceased organ donors.

However, the rate of donation varies from zero donors in some Commonwealth nations to over 20 per million population in countries like Australia, Canada, Malta, and the UK.

Levels of organ failure and the need for transplantation remain high in all nations. Such unmet needs can lead to the death of those on the transplant waiting list, commercially driven ‘transplant tourism’, or sadly, even organ trafficking to the detriment of both organ donors and recipients.

The Tribute to Life signatories will collaborate by sharing:

  • safe and ethical best practice
  • learning and experience from transplantation programmes at all stages of development
  • teaching and training materials, and chances for shared learning including conferences and mentorships
  • expertise in developing tissue banks services
  • experience on the promotion of organ donation with special emphasis on minority and hard to engage groups

In the United Kingdom, 6,230 people are waiting for an organ transplant, of this number 1,934 are from a Black, Asian, Mixed, or Other ethnic minority background, this represents around 32% of the transplant list.

The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid MP, formally launched the project. He said:

The Commonwealth Tribute to Life is the culmination of three years of dedicated work by NHS Blood and Transplant, Dr. Dale Gardiner, and Dr. Satya Sharma MBE DL and I’m delighted to launch this initiative.

Through sharing knowledge and awareness around organ and tissue donation and transplantation, Commonwealth nations can work together to save and transform the lives of thousands of patients.

As part of this we want people from all communities, but especially those from ethnic minority backgrounds, to discuss organ donation and make the life-saving choice to become a donor.

Dr. Satya Sharma MBE, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands has Chaired the project and praised its success at its launch. He said:

The 2022 Commonwealth Games are committed to bringing people together and celebrating the diversity of both the West Midlands and the Commonwealth.

Dale Gardiner, Associate Medical Director – Deceased Organ Donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, says:

As the world comes together, we will be showcasing the importance of organ and tissue donation. This Memorandum of Understanding can save and improve lives across the world. For those of you in the UK, we need you to talk to your family and tell them your organ donation decision – leave them certain of it.

The Memorandum of Understanding will come into force just before the start of the Commonwealth Games during July 2022.

Written by: Suzanne Browne 

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