Organ Utilisation Group
The Department of Health and Social Care have established a new Organ Utilisation Group, to review the current organ transplantation system.
Set up by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and reporting to all Ministers of Health in the UK, the Group aims to deliver recommendations on how to maximise the potential for organ transplantation and provide a premier healthcare system, that delivers equity, excellence, and innovation to meet the needs of those on the transplant waiting list. It will also address how the barriers to organ transplantation can be overcome so that the UK continues as a world-leader in innovation in the field of transplantation and no opportunity for a successful transplant operation is missed.
There have been significant improvements in organ donation rates over the last 10 years, with the number of organ donors increasing by 56%. The introduction of opt-out legislation in England in May 2020 is already delivering further improvements in the consent rate and is expected to lead to a further increase in donors.
Although there have also been improvements in the transplant rate, this has not kept pace with donation. Increasing age and co-morbidity of both donors and patients makes successful organ utilisation challenging.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted on the waiting list. Whilst the first wave saw fast-tracked improvements to the transplantation service, the reduction in donors and temporary closure of units has led to a 5-year high of people on the transplant waiting list.
National audits and joint NHS Blood and Transplant / British Transplantation Society summits provide strong evidence of inequalities and variation between units, which impacts on access to treatment and patient outcomes. These include local limitations on resources and access to novel technologies to support organ transplantation and increase utilisation, which varies between units. Combined, these lead to inequities in access to transplantation from geographic, socio-economic and ethnicity perspectives.
There is a need to review the organ transplantation infrastructure, to explore how the resources already available can be best utilised, to meet the needs of patients.
It is acknowledged that there are a wide range of stakeholders that will have insight and ideas that would inform the work of the Organ Utilisation Group (OUG). It has been agreed that there should be a Stakeholder Forum, to bring together stakeholder organisations and provide a way of sharing information and updates on progress.
The Stakeholder Forum will have two co-chairs, to represent the transplant service and patients. The OUG secretariat (provided by NHS Blood and Transplant, NHS England and NHS Improvement) would also support the Forum. The co-chairs will liaise closely with the secretariat and report to the chair of the OUG.
Whilst the Forum will provide the main means of stakeholder engagement with the OUG, it has also been agreed that there should be a range of other activities, including an online call for evidence, stakeholder workshops and ad-hoc meetings/ visits as appropriate. Forum Co-Chairs and members to help with facilitating this work.
It is hoped to have the first meeting of the Forum in September. Given the current COVID situation, the meetings will be online, but this will be kept under review and there may be scope for face-to-face meetings in the future.
The Forum is expected to run for the same period as the Organ Utilisation Group and will be disbanded once the final report has been submitted to ministers.