Policy actions  2 of 4

Organ and tissue donation and transplantation

At any one time, due to a shortage of organs, more than 500 people in Scotland are waiting for an organ to become available to give them the transplant they desperately need. 

Organ donation can greatly enhance or save lives. Over 50% of the Scottish population have joined the NHS Organ Donor Register. However people are still dying every day waiting on a transplant and the more people that join the Organ Donor Register, the more lives that can be saved.

Our aim is to increase organ donation and transplantation rates in Scotland and to ensure that as many people in Scotland receive the life-saving or life-changing transplants that they need.  

We published our national plan for organ donation and transplantation 2013-2020 in July 2013 which set out the following priorities:

  • to increase the number of people in Scotland who have made their wishes about donation known
  • to increase the availability of organs for transplantation
  • to make every donation count
  • to make sure that all parts of NHS Scotland are knowledgeable about and support donation and transplantation
  • to make sure that the public in Scotland is informed and engaged about organ donation and transplantation

The majority of the recommendations outlined in the national plan have now been completed including:

Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill

In December 2016 we consulted on ways of increasing the numbers of successful organ and tissue donations and transplantations, including proposals to introduce an opt-out system of organ and tissue donation. We published the responses to this consultation in June 2017. 

Following this public consultation, in which 82% of the respondents supported the move to an opt-out system, we introduced the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Bill to the Scottish Parliament in June 2018.  

The Bill was agreed by Parliament in June 2019. It will amend the existing opt-in system of authorisation in the Human Tissue (Scotland) Act 2006. Under the new law, if an adult does not opt-in or opt-out of donation they may be deemed to have authorised donation for transplantation. This is subject to the safeguards in the Bill which seek to ensure that donation will not go ahead where it would be against the person’s wishes. assuming that people are in favour of donation unless they have opted out or told their relatives that they did not want to donate.

We have committed to raising awareness about the new system over a 12 month period before opt out comes into force.

More information about the passage of the Bill is available from the Scottish Parliament website. 

Living kidney donation  

Living kidney donation is an exceptional gift that can transform the life of someone on the transplant waiting list.

Our aim is to reduce waiting times for those in need of a kidney transplant by ensuring timely access and equity of access to pre-emptive live donor kidney transplantation.

Living kidney donation can lead to better outcomes for patients and one donor can trigger a ‘chain’ of transplants through the UK Living Kidney Sharing Scheme, meaning up to three people can receive a transplant as part of one person’s gift. 

The policy on reimbursement of living donor expenses sets out information for healthcare professionals in Scotland about the principles and processes that underpin payment of expenses to living donors.

A Living Kidney Donation and Transplantation Information Pack has been developed to provide healthcare professionals with a detailed overview of the process in Scotland.

Paediatric and neonatal organ and tissue donation

We worked with clinicians, nurses, midwives, charities, family members and other stakeholders to provide the following guidance on how to enable donation in cases where a baby or child has sadly died or is expected to die:  

Commissioning transplantation to 2020

All solid organ transplant services are nationally commissioned by National Services Division (NSD) which is part of NHS National Services Scotland.  NSD’s Commissioning Transplantation to 2020 report sets out current plans for organ transplantation services for Scottish residents.

Scottish Donation and Transplant Group

We formed the Scottish Donation and Transplant Group (SDTG) in 2001 to provide a regular forum for representatives of the donation and transplant communities in Scotland. 

In December 2017, we published an agreement between the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Scottish Donation and Transplant Group in regard to organ and tissue donation.