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Top professor calls for more organ donors from British ethnic minorities

Professor Magdi Yaqoob
Professor Magdi Yaqoob

A LEADING transplant expert has used the arrival of this year’s Organ Donation Week to ask for more black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) organ donors to come forward and help save thousands of lives.

This year Organ Donation Week runs from September 5 until September 11 and is a time when the transplant community promotes the benefits of donation nationally and across local communities.

Professor Magdi Yaqoob, the academic director of renal medicine and transplantation at Britain’s biggest NHS Trust, Barts Health, has therefore used his high profile to urge more British people to donate, especially from BAME communities.

Over 1300 people in the UK died, or became too ill to receive a transplant whilst on the UK’s organ donation waiting list in 2015/16 according to NHS figures. But in London, Britain’s largest city, just over 27.8% per cent of people are on the NHS Organ Donation Register.

Lack of donors is one issue but ethnicity is also important to the success of some organ transplants, because a better match is needed, and more likely to be found, from within a particular community. Yet according to NHS Blood and Transplant, only 67 out of 1,364 deceased donors in the UK were from the BAME community in 2015/16 – while 1,686 patients from the BAME community waited for an organ transplant.

Members of BAME communities are more likely to need transplants due to a higher incidence of conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of hepatitis. The present situation means that due to a lack of suitable donors and the increased BAME need for such organs as are available, many black and minority ethnic people in need of a kidney transplant are more likely to wait longer than white people for an organ.

Professor Yaqoob said: “It is important that we raise awareness of organ donation all year round, not just during this awareness week – especially in black and minority ethnic communities. We are seeing more people in those communities wait longer and die simply because there are not enough organs that match their needs.

“Here in east London we particularly need to do more. Despite having a world-leading trauma centre and kidney transplant centre at The Royal London, only just over 27.8 per cent of Londoners are on the NHS Organ Donor Register. This must improve if we are to save the lives of local people.”

The NHS Blood and Transplant campaign ‘Turn an End, Into a Beginning’ is now encouraging more people to talk about organ donation with their family and friends. Figures show that only 47% of families agree to organ donation if they are unaware of their loved one’s decision to be a donor. But this climbs to 90% when the decision of the deceased to be an organ donor is known.