Donation and transplantation: plan 2021 to 2026

The Plan sets out our priorities for increasing organ and tissue donation and transplantation over the next five years.

Priority Six – Research and Innovation

Alongside rolling out the use of novel technologies where there is evidence of their effectiveness, it is important to continue to support research in relation to organ and tissue transplantation and regenerative medicine. Research has the potential both to improve the effectiveness of transplanted organs and/or tissue, making them last longer or perform better for recipients, with fewer side effects.

Chart 8

Graph shows the rates of authorisation or consent for organs to be donated for research in the UK.

*For donation year 2019, the data was collected from 01/01/19 to 31/07/19

6.1 Where a donor has agreed to donate their organs or tissue for transplantation it may often not be possible to use some, or even sometimes any, of their organs or tissue for transplantation. Particularly in cases where organs or tissue have been retrieved, it can be very disappointing for loved ones if the organs or tissue are found not to be safe to transplant. However, enabling them to be used for research instead can give some comfort that the person's organ(s) or tissues are still making a valuable contribution to potentially saving or improving patients' lives. The Scottish Government will support NHSBT, SNBTS and transplant units' work to promote the donation of organs and tissue for research, for example by raising awareness of the benefits of donating for research as well as for transplantation. Consistent with the aims of the UK Strategy, we will monitor rates of authorisation for research by nearest relatives, as well as the work of the Research, Innovation and Novel Technologies Advisory Group (RINTAG) in helping to improve the utilisation of organs and tissue for research where possible if they are not suitable for transplantation.

6.2 We will also continue to provide opportunities for transplant-related and regenerative medicine research to be carried out in Scotland, including for example research in areas such as immunosuppression, and will promote engagement with academic institutions and grant-funding bodies to support this. Scotland benefits from having a leading Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Edinburgh, which is at the forefront of research on advanced cellular therapeutics, along with other academic institutions carrying out regenerative medicine research. In the longer term, regenerative medicine has the potential to significantly improve the quality of transplanted organs and tissues, as well as potentially in future to provide alternative forms of treatment for certain conditions, which might possibly reduce the need for transplantation.

Key Recommendations Short term 1 – 2 years Medium term 3 – 5 years Lead
1 Increase public awareness about the benefits of donating organs or tissue for research. Short to medium term Scottish Government and NHSBT
2 Monitor progress and consider if further action is needed to increase donation and utilisation of organs or tissue for research. Medium term Scottish Government and NHSBT



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