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We live on an island, but we are part of something bigger

23 October 2019

To paraphrase a well known bank add, we live on an island in the middle of the sea but we are part of something bigger. 

Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, Anthony JohnsonThat clearly explains banking but it also perfectly sums up what we do in Organ Donation and Transplantation. We are the Organ Donation Organisation for all the people of the UK but we are fortunate to work in perhaps the one area of healthcare where organisations and nations work in partnership to share learning and to support each other to save and improve lives. The last week has been a frenetic but uplifting example of how we truly work in a world-wide team.

Wednesday saw the weekly meeting of the Executive Team and then an opportunity to learn more about the fantastic ground breaking work of our colleagues working in the Cambridge Centre. I always find our ET centre visits fascinating and uplifting, it is an opportunity to hear about work that I would not otherwise know about and meet colleagues from across NHSBT and hear about what they do. The passion for everything NHSBT stands for simply shines out of every centre I visit and this was no exception, a great afternoon in the company of colleagues who, like me, are committed to making NHSBT a world leader in all aspects of our life saving work. Unfortunately there was no time to hang around post-visit as I was straight on a train to London to get over to the House of Lords for the first of a series of fascinating meetings concentrating on our role as an international organ donation organisation.

The meeting was hosted by Baroness Finlay, and was attended by our NHSBT Chair Millie Banerjee, Dr Satya Sharma - Deputy Lieutenant, West Midlands, Dale Gardiner – Clinical Lead for Organ Donation and Prof John Forsythe – Medical Director for ODT. The reason for the meeting was the exciting proposal to consider, plan and hope to persuade international colleagues to sign up to a Commonwealth Memorandum of Understanding. A Commonwealth MOU would represent a joint statement of will and intent in support of Organ Donation and Transplantation, it would provide the framework within which Commonwealth Countries could work in partnership to ensure the best care for their patients and share best practice. The process for developing the MOU will be long and complex, involving as it does the sharing of political will across the globe. However, it is an ambition that everyone present considered worth pursuing, and hopefully from that tiny meeting a plan can develop and grow. I will keep everyone up to date with developments across the next couple of years and hope at the end to share news of a new and positive commitment to working in partnership.

Overnight in London for a meeting of the NHSBT Board which was followed Thursday evening by a reception to welcome our European friends and colleagues to the European Organ Donation Day Conference. Holding EODD is a huge honour for a nation and I am delighted and very proud that we have had that opportunity this year. The reception was kindly hosted by Lord Oates who is a member of the House of Lords and our NHSBT Board. It was a great way to formally welcome our guests, meet in a relaxed environment with colleagues from across the continent and, naturally, talk about the excellent work taking place across Europe in support of Organ Donation and Transplantation. I have always been proud of how as an organisation we rise to such challenges as hosting EODD and this was no exception. It was undoubtedly a successful formal launch to 3 days of collaboration and learning.
Friday saw a number of important meetings which saw me staying in London on a day when I had very much hoped to join my Team Manager colleagues at their Workshop in Birmingham. I am immensely proud to lead my ODT Team and the Team Managers are a truly vital part of that team and meeting them every year is something I hold very dear. It is unfortunately in the nature of my work as a Director that my diary can be forced to change at short notice, but I know that can be a disappointment for others and I am pleased to take this opportunity to apologise for missing the workshop and to commit to do all I can to attend the next.

Saturday was the main day of the EODD Conference. Organ Donation and Transplantation in the UK is a success story, but it could not be as successful without our development of our DCD (Donation after Circulatory Death) Organ Donation Programme. We have in a decade moved from DCD providing a literal handful of donors a year to being a keystone of our programme contributing last year over 600+ Organ Donors, with that looking set to be improved upon this year. Our European colleagues are at different stages of implementation of DCD programmes and our experiences are vital learning which they can take home and use to help their own programmes grow and save more lives. I was delighted to have the opportunity to present to the Conference on the operational challenges NHSBT faced implementing DCD. Here in the UK we have fewer patients who are declared Brain Stem Death and are therefore capable of donating through the DBD pathway, I am proud to say that rather than resting on our laurels or deciding there was nothing more we could do, NHSBT took the decision to embrace the potential to support organ donors via the DCD pathway. The changes to structure, training and the roles of our Specialist Nurses all attest to the thought that has gone into ensuring that every patient who has the potential to donate is given the opportunity to do so.
It is important to emphasise that the learning was very much both ways, as hosts we sought to share our DCD experiences with our colleagues across Europe, and those colleagues reciprocated with some fascinating sessions sharing their donation and transplantation journeys. It was a meeting held in a friendly and collaborative spirit and I was delighted that as I spoke with colleagues from across Europe they felt welcomed, supported and engaged. The meeting ended and as everyone headed home the NHSBT team could reflect on a job well done. We set the bar very high with EODD 2019, I look forward to working with our brilliant team to continue to showcase our work and use our learning to save and improve lives across the world.

Best wishes

Anthony