More lives saved by organ transplants

Public Health Minister thanks donors, their families and NHS staff.

The number of patients living in Scotland whose lives were saved or improved by an organ transplant increased by 9% last year to 415.

Following a slight dip in 2014/15, donor numbers in Scotland increased again to 99 in 2015/16. In addition, the number of living donors in Scotland increased by 4% to 84, accounting for almost half the total number of organ donors.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said:

“We are making significant progress on organ donation. Since we started our plan of improvement in 2008 we have seen an 83% increase in deceased donor numbers, a 57% increase in the number of transplants undertaken and the active transplant waiting list has also reduced by 21%.

“I am very aware that organ donation can only occur as a result of tragic circumstances and I’d like to thank every donor and their family who made the selfless decision to donate their organs and enabled others to live. I am also very grateful to staff across the NHS in Scotland for ensuring that, when appropriate, patients and their families are offered the opportunity to have donation wishes honoured.

“Today’s figures are encouraging but for as long as people are dying waiting for transplants, more needs to be done. As our campaign says, we need everybody. It is more important than ever to talk about your wishes with your loved ones – we know that families are much more likely to agree to donation going ahead if they know it is what their loved one wanted.

“The Scottish Government will, in the near future, be launching a consultation on increasing organ donation. It will include proposals for a potential soft opt-out system for Scotland. Subject to the outcomes of that consultation, we will bring forward legislation.”

Case study

Scott Ramsay, 54 from Edinburgh, has been on the waiting list for a donor kidney since March 2016, after his kidney function rapidly deteriorated last March.

The father of two, who was born with polycystic kidney disease, ended up being hospitalised and told that dialysis and an eventual transplant would be needed to keep him alive.

Scott has been on dialysis for a year, and whilst things have stabilised, he isn’t responding as well as doctor’s would have hoped, with the treatment having a huge impact on his quality of life. Scott said:

“I lived most of my life without any problems until my kidney function fell off a cliff last year. I’m not doing particularly well on dialysis – doctors have indicated the quality is low for the amount of time I’m dialysing.

“As a result, my quality of life has been seriously impaired. I’ve had to give up work, I have little energy and my cognitive abilities have been reduced. I can’t watch TV for more than 15 minutes, lose my train of thought easily and everyday things like reading a book are a struggle.”

“Because I’ve lived most of my life free from illness, there’s been an enormous change. I knew a transplant would be the end goal and when I was going through the tests it did cross my mind that I might not be listed. I was so delighted to hear that I was being given that chance. The shot at a transplant really is like a golden ticket.

“It would be transformational and completely re-start my life because at the moment I don’t have one. It would be nice to be able to walk uphill, go for a swim, do a crossword. The basic things I took for granted before I got ill.

“I have no option but to take life day to day, there’s no point in thinking about the transplant as it’s completely out with my control. It’s like a lottery and I just have to hope that one day, I’ll get the call. Without it, I’m pretty certain things won’t improve.”

Speaking about the NHS Organ Donor Register, Scott said:

“I’ve always been on the Register. I more than understand the standpoint of those who don’t want to donate their organs, and you have to respect people’s opinions. When I tell others my story, many remark on how terrible it is and ask what they can do. My answer is always to think about joining the Register.

“I think there are so many people out there that want to be donors, but just don’t have the time or inclination to join. That’s why I’m backing the campaign – anything that helps raise awareness of the importance of the Register can only be a good thing.”

Notes to editors

At the end of March 2016 there were 542 patients waiting for a transplant in Scotland, with a further 284 temporarily suspended from transplant lists. 36 patients died while on the active waiting list for their transplant and a further 66 were removed from the transplant list.

Join the NHS Organ Donor Register by visiting

For more information on organ donation and joining the register, people can call 0300 123 2323.

Organ Donation Scotland is on Twitter and Facebook.

The Transplant Activity Report from NHSBT for 2015-16 can be found here.


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