Spike in people signing up to donate their organs through NHS app

Spike in people signing up to donate their organs through NHS app after 12million downloaded it for their Covid vaccine passports

  • Some 265,000 new organ donors have registered through the NHS app
  • App is used to prove Covid jab status and millions have downloaded it since May
  • More than 12million downloaded it app after the Covid Pass was introduced 

England has seen a spike in people signing up to be organ donors through the NHS app this year, figures show.

A total of 265,000 new donors have registered through the software, with 150,000 of them doing so between May and September.  

The surge in the summer came as millions of Britons flocked to the app when the Covid Pass feature was introduced and domestic passports looked likely.

No10 started flirting with the idea of using proof of jab papers in bars, restaurants and other indoor settings in spring but has held off so far in England. 

The measure has been brought in in Scotland however and a decisions will be taken in Wales in the coming days.

More than 12million Brits downloaded the NHS app after the Covid Pass was introduced, allowing people to prove their vaccination status with the click of a button. 

In total 1.5million people in England have agreed to donate their organs when they die, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). 

Around 150,000 people have registered to donate their organs after downloading the NHS app for their Covid vaccine passports

Around 40 per cent of the population of the UK have ‘opted-in’ to the organ donation register — around 26million people. Everyone in England is assumed to have opted in but people are able to opt in so their family are aware of their decision when they die 

Max and Keira’s Law, named after a boy who received a heart transplant from a girl who donated it, cleared the House of Commons in 2019. Max Johnson (left) was saved by a heart given to him by the family of nine-year-old donor Keira Ball (right) following her death in 2017

The proportion of people opting in to organ donation across the UK increased from 39 per cent in 2019 to 2020 to 40 per cent in 2020 to 2021 — and jumped by more than a quarter in a decade.

An ‘opt-out’ system known as the Max and Keira law came into effect last year, which means everyone in England is automatically considered a donor unless their family requests otherwise after their death. 

The law is named after Keira Ball, who died aged nine in 2017, and Max Johnson, now aged 13, who was saved by her heart.

The NHS is urging families in the UK to consider organ donation amid fears waiting lists for major transplants will rise.

According to NHS Blood and Transplant, more than 7,000 people including 200 children are currently thought to be in need of a transplant across the country.

The service is particularly concerned about donations for children, who wait an average of 88 days for an urgent heart transplant compared to 35 days for adults, around two-and-a-half times longer.

In the year 2020-21, 15 children and 493 adults died while waiting for a transplant, and just one per cent of people die in circumstances where organ donation is possible.

For more than a decade, the number of young organ donors has been around 50 per year, and just over half of families approached in 2020-21 agreed to organ donation.

Organ donor Amelia Wood, from Lincolnshire, overcame cancer but died aged 11 after she was hit by a wheel that had broken off a passing vehicle.

Her mother, Hayley Hodson, said: ‘When Amelia was ill, she needed lots of units of blood and platelets and was helped by many people.

‘When we were told nothing more could be done to help her, I knew that she would want to do the same for others.

‘Having been in hospital, we knew what it was like to feel invisible, isolated and helpless, through organ donation we wanted to give others a chance they wouldn’t otherwise have.’ 

All adults in England are now considered to have opted-in to organ donation in an effort increase the number of donors.

Following the law’s arrival in May last year, families are still consulted before organ donation goes ahead.

But signing up on the app allows people to notify their family of their decision digitally and also put in their preference as to whether they want an NHS staff member to explain how organ donations can be in line with their religious beliefs.

It also allows them to amend which particular organs they do or do not wish to donate after they die.

Head of the NHS Organ Donor Register at NHS Blood and Transplant Alex Hudson said: ‘Since the new organ donation law came into effect, our priority has been to ensure that each person knows that organ donation is still a choice.

‘By enabling people to check, amend and update their organ donation decision, the NHS app makes it easier than ever for people to manage and control their own organ donation decision.

‘Even though organ donation has changed to an opt-out system, it is important for people to be aware that families will still always be approached before organ donation goes ahead.

‘When a person has proactively registered their organ donation decision, we know this provides great comfort and reassurance for families at what is an incredibly difficult time.’

Speaking at London Tech Week, Health Secretary Sajid Javid welcomed the ‘enormous’ benefits of technology in transforming health and care.

‘We all owe so much not just to our doctors, nurses and colleagues on the front line but also the coders, developers and innovators who helped our NHS stay so strong,’ he said.

‘We’ve seen what health tech can do at a time when health systems around the world were under incredible strain.

‘We must build on the progress that we’ve all seen and deliver this long-awaited digital revolution.’

Over the last four months, almost 3.2million repeat prescriptions were also ordered within the app, while more than 268,000 GP appointment bookings were made.

Announcing the the opt-out donation law last year, officials said it would mean an extra 700 transplants each year by 2023, helping thousands of people across the UK waiting for a transplant.

But they stress that donating organs remains a personal decision. When the new system starts in May families will get the final say.

But doctors hope the ‘presumed consent system’ will mean more relatives give the go-ahead.

They say relatives often decide not to give permission for organs to be removed because they do not know what their loved one would have wanted.

And the NHS app’s new function of allowing donors to notify the family of their decision is also expected to help ensure organs are correctly donated.

‘Dan’s donation was a silver thread to grab hold of at a time when everything was falling down around me’ 

A teenage boy’s decision to donate his organs gave his mother a ‘silver thread’ of hope during her darkest hours, she has said. 

Fifteen-year-old Dan, from Glossop, was a ‘once-met-never-forgotten boy’ whose ‘story will go on into the future’, after he donated his organs following his death in 2018.

His mother Debbie described him as an outgoing, boisterous boy who had recently moved to Sheffield before he was struck down in a road accident.

He was rushed to Sheffield Children’s Hospital but he suffered brain damage that left doctors unable to treat him. 

Debbie said: ‘It takes time for doctors to give up hope of survival, but as soon as they confirmed that there was nothing more they could do, I knew that I needed to talk about organ donation. 

‘I wanted Dan to have the chance to do one last amazing thing. And I knew he’d have been 100 per cent behind that decision.’

She added: ‘Every day the person who received Dan’s organ takes a breath in, it’s amazing. 

‘For every day they’re around, that’s a day their friends and family get to spend with them. 

‘Dan has made a life better that would have been more difficult without his donation. His donation has had ripple effects on family and friends that will be a legacy.’

Fifteen-year-old Dan, from Glossop, was a ‘once-met-never-forgotten boy’ whose ‘story will go on into the future’, after he donated his organs following his death in 2018

Debbie and Dan had previously talked about donation and he said he was keen to help others with his organs.

She said: ‘One of our friends died waiting for a kidney transplant and another one of our family friends donated his kidney to his son, and we were closely involved with supporting the family at that time. 

‘So, Dan and I had talked about organ donation openly. When I had the conversation with Dan about organ donation he said: “it’s just obvious. If I’m dead I’m not going to need it, someone else can use it!”

‘So, when I was faced with the decision I felt privileged I didn’t need to think about it. To know I was simply making his last wish a reality is an honour, and I knew I was doing the right thing by his wishes.

‘Dan’s donation was a silver thread to grab hold of at a time when everything was falling down around me.’

After the road traffic accident Dan was looked after by a range of staff across Sheffield Children’s Hospital, from the Embrace transport team to the intensive care unit and the bereavement team. 

Debbie and Dan had previously talked about donation and he said he was keen to help others with his organs

Debbie said: ‘Everyone did a phenomenal job. Everyone was so gentle, the way we were cared for felt weightless, everything was so smooth, lovely and kind.

‘When we were in the intensive care unit, the care we received was unobtrusive, but they were absolutely there if I needed a pair of arms, a cup of tea or a hug. 

‘They were looking after you because they know you’re not really “there” and going through shock and disbelief, and they knew what I needed and when. 

‘In a time when everything was so jarring and unnatural, calmness is just what you need and they made it seem all okay and alright.’

Debbie and Dan’s father were talked through donating Dan’s organs by the Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation: ‘Dan’s dad and I discussed the specifics with a lovely Nurse from the Organ Donation team, who explained all about our choices and what would happen. 

‘The nurse was incredibly patient, knowing that there is a lot to take in at a traumatic time. 

‘But for me, this was an exciting prospect; in the face of a horrific tragedy, something incredibly positive could occur. This would be Dan’s legacy.

‘It was wonderful to find out, just a few weeks later, that Dan’s kind, big, beautiful heart had gone to a young child under the age of 10.

‘As well as helping that child, and bringing hope to their family, Dan was also able to donate his liver, both kidneys and his pancreas. 

‘Four families in all (one recipient had both a kidney and the pancreas) had been on the receipt of Dan’s legacy. 

‘I will always grieve Dan’s death, but equally always delight that I could enact his final wish and that he made a difference to others’ lives, even after his was over.’

Dan’s mother Debbie (pictured together) described him as an outgoing, boisterous boy who had recently moved to Sheffield before he was struck down in a road accident

Paul Neale, 53, from Rotherham, was aged 50 when he received Dan’s kidney. 

He connected with Debbie through the NHS Blood and Transplant process for donor families and transplant recipients to make contact, with support for both sides, and since then they consider each other extended family. 

Paul said: ‘In 2015 I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. In 2018 I was due to start dialysis, we’d received the training and I had seven per cent kidney function, I was bedridden. 

‘The day before dialysis I got a call that there was a kidney available, and I could have a transplant.

‘It has totally changed my life. I’m much healthier now. I am just so grateful. I think the world of Dan, he’s our other son now.’

Paul’s wife Sharon said: ‘These horrible circumstances have made our family extended now. 

‘Not many people would think to talk about dying with their children, as no one thinks it will happen to them, it is amazing Debbie did. 

‘We are so grateful to Debbie and Dan for his donation, and keeping in touch with Debbie gives us chance to say thank you again.’

NHS Blood and Transplant and Sheffield Children’s Hospital are calling on people to talk to their families about organ donation and leave them certain about their decision for Organ Donation Week, which started yesterday.

Debbie encourages everyone to have the conversation with their family, especially with their children: ‘Having had a conversation with Dan made things so much better when I needed to make the decision. 

‘Parents should have the light-hearted conversation with their children. It won’t matter if it doesn’t matter, but if it does matter it’s such a relief to know you’ve already got that information.’

Clare Croxall, specialist nurse for organ donation, said: ‘As a team of specialist nurses in organ donation we know that no one expects to ever need to have the conversation about organ donation. 

‘Debbie and Dan did an amazing thing by discussing it, so Debbie knew Dan’s wishes.

‘I really encourage everyone to have the conversation with their loved ones, at any age, so they are left certain if they ever need to make the decision for them. 

‘The difference Dan’s organ donation has made on families has been incredible, we will never be able to thank Dan and his family enough.’

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