Friday 31 July 2015

The UK’s biggest transplant charities, including the British Heart Foundation, British Kidney Patient Association and Anthony Nolan, came together at The British Transplant Games today (31 July) in NewcastleGateshead to announce a new campaign to help ‘save a life a day’.

Every 10 minutes, somebody’s name gets added to the donor waiting list and 3 people die daily because they can’t get the organ they need. Transplant Sport (TS), the charity behind the Westfield Health British Transplant Games, has joined forces with charities from across the UK to launch a new campaign to help reduce the death rate by a third.

David Nix, Chair of the Donor Family Network and Transplant Sport Trustee, said: “By 2020, Transplant Sport in partnership with the Transplant 2020 Stakeholder Group and key national transplant charities is committed to increasing the family consent rate to organ donation from 57% to 80%[1]. The group is also seeking to encourage more young people and those from ethnic minorities to join the stem cell donor register.

“Together, we speak with a united voice to deliver a clear message; the public need to be informed of the importance of discussing their donation wishes, thus facilitating a change in attitudes towards organ, tissue and stem cell donation across the UK.”

The Save a Life a Day campaign was announced during the 2015 Games, held in the spiritual home of transplantation, NewcastleGateshead.

Save a Life a Day not only aims to encourage more people to sign the NHS Organ Donor and Anthony Nolan (bone marrow and stem cell) registers, but urges the public to share their donation wishes with their family.

Around  32% of the UK population are registered donors, but on average 42% of relatives refuse permission for organ donation to take place. The window for successful transplantation is limited. By speaking with family, individuals can help ensure their wishes are carried out, meaning fewer people will die because an organ is not available.

Eryn Howie (4), from Newcastle received a kidney from her mum, Dawn in 2011. Born with dysplastic kidneys, Eryn was already in end stage renal failure at birth. Dawn Howie, said: “Eryn spent her first 7 month in hospital and at times became very poorly, after complications due to fungal peritonitis she ended up on haemodialysis, 3-4 times a week right up until age of 2 1/2 years. We knew before Eryn was born she would need a transplant, and both my husband Mark and I were very willing to donate a kidney to her.”

Living donors make up a third of all kidney donations, but there is still a desperate need for donors to join the register. Sally Taber, Chair of British Kidney Patients Association, said: “At the heart of the BKPA’s mission is a passionate commitment to improve the quality of life for kidney patients and their families, and to help them live a full life. We are delighted to once again be part of the British Transplant Games and to help support many of the teams from across the UK to take part. Whilst we should enjoy and celebrate the Games we must not forget that 3 people die every day waiting for a transplant. Joining the register is a great step in the right direction but we’d encourage everyone to discuss their wishes with their family.”

For more information about ‘Save a Life a Day’, please visit

Which charities are backing the campaign?

  • African-Caribbean Leukemia Trust.
  • Anthony Nolan.
  • British Heart Foundation.
  • British Kidney Patient Association.
  • British Liver Trust.
  • British Transplantation Society.
  • Children’s Liver Disease Foundation.
  • Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
  • Donor Family Network.
  • Freeman Heart and Lung Transplant Association.
  • Give a Kidney.
  • iLive iGive.
  • Kidney Research UK.
  • Live Life, then Give Life.
  • National Black (Asian & Minority Ethnic) Transplant Alliance.
  • Polycystic Kidney Disease Charity.
  • PSC Support (Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis).
  • National Kidney Federation.
  • Westfield Health

Supporting Quotes

Melanie Sturtevant, policy manager at the British Heart Foundation, said: ““Sadly, the number of people waiting for a heart transplant has more than doubled in the last five years. There is a desperate shortage of organ donors and we urgently need to improve this to offer the best chance of long term survival for critically ill heart patients. It’s crucial that people discuss their wishes with their loved ones. We know that families are much more likely to consent to donation when they know what the wishes of their loved ones were.

“We would like to see the introduction of a ‘soft opt out’ system across the UK, where it’s assumed that someone is happy to donate unless they, or their family, say otherwise. The ‘soft opt out’ system has helped to increase the number of organ donors in other countries, and is being introduced in Wales later this year. We hope to see the rest of the UK follow Wales’s lead to help save more lives.”

Chiara DeBiase, Head of Patient Experience at Anthony Nolan, said: “We are very proud to partner with the British Transplant Games 2015 and back the ‘Save a Life a Day’ campaign. Backing this campaign is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting patients and their families through their transplant journey, from finding lifesaving stem cell donors to helping people live their lives to the full afterwards.

“Around 2,000 people a year are told they need a stem cell transplant and we urgently need more young lifesavers to join our register to give these people a second chance of life. We especially need young men and people from ethnic minority backgrounds, as these people are underrepresented on the register. Most people don’t realise that donating stem cells is usually a similar procedure to giving blood and joining the register only involves spitting into a tube.”

Why are more donors needed?

There is a serious shortage of organs and the gap between the number of organs donated and the number of people waiting for a transplant is increasing.

Transplants are very successful and the number of people needing a transplant is expected to rise steeply due to an ageing population, an increase in kidney failure and scientific advances which mean that more people are now able to benefit from a transplant.

However, the number of organs available for transplant has remained static over the past five years. Only a very small number of people die in circumstances where they are able to donate their organs.  The numbers of people, particularly younger people, dying in these circumstances is falling, mainly because of welcome improvements in road safety, medical advances in the treatment of patients and the prevention of strokes in younger people.

Another major reason for the shortage of organs is that many people have not recorded their wishes about donation or discussed it with their families.

The Westfield Health British Transplant Games

The British Transplant Games, takes place at venues across NewcastleGateshead, 30 July-02 August 2015. This four day event promotes the benefits of transplantation, celebrates the many incredible achievements of transplant athletes, and highlights the desperate need for organ donors.

The Games have been held annually since 1978, and have grown from an original 99 entrants, (nicknamed the 99 blooming miracles), to 800+ competitors today
Media Information
Released on behalf of the Westfield Health British Transplant Games.

For more information, please contact:
Shelley Armstrongshelley.armstrong@ngi.or.guk / 0191 4405739 / 07717631109

[1] In line with Transplant 2020 campaign.