The proportion of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities registering to donate on the NHS Organ Donor Register is on the rise, but there’s still a need for families to support donation.
NHS Blood and Transplant’s (NHSBT) latest report into Ethnicity Differences in Organ Donation and Transplantation published this week shows that an increased proportion of potential organ donors of Black and Asian heritage are showing their support by registering their decision to be a donor on the NHS Organ Donor Register, but the number of actual deceased donors fell last year (2022/23).
There remains an urgent need for people of Black and Asian heritage to discuss and share their support for organ donation. Currently over three-quarters of people waiting for a transplant in the UK are waiting for a kidney. These patients can be saved by those who donate after death or by a living donor. With the number of people waiting for kidneys continuing to rise, the chances of finding a suitable donor are higher when a potential donor is of the same ethnicity. Families are much more likely to support donation if they know it is what their loved one wanted.
The latest report shows:
- There was a 2% increase in the number of ethnic minority transplant recipients in 2022/23 and a 2% decrease in the number of ethnic minority deceased organ donors. There is also a 6% increase in the number of living donors.
- 62% of Asian and 51% of Black kidney transplant recipients receive a kidney from a living donor of the same ethnicity.
- Over the last year, there has been a fall in the number of deaths on the waiting list across all organs, from 510 to 470. Patients from ethnic minority backgrounds accounted for 22% of those who died waiting for a transplant in 2022/23.
The latest figures reveal that in 2022/23, people of Asian heritage represented 4% of deceased donors but 15% of deceased donor transplants and 19% of the transplant waiting list; while those of Black heritage represented 2% of deceased donors but 9% of deceased donor transplants and 11% of the waiting list, similar to figures from the previous year. There was also an increase of 6% of living donors.
The report also highlights a considerable rise in the proportion of opt-in registrations from ethnic minority groups on the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR) over the past five years. In 2018/19, 7.1% of people who registered in support of organ donation and declared their ethnicity were from ethnic minorities, a figure that rose to 11.7% in 2022/23.
While the rise in opt in registrations from ethnic minorities is promising, there remains a pressing need for people from these communities to support the decision of their loved one to become an organ donor. The latest figures reveal that deceased organ donations among ethnic minority groups still remains far lower than those from the white population.
Overall consent/authorisation rates were 39% for Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic donors last year, compared to 70% for white potential donors, similar to rates for the previous year. The main reasons families from ethnic minority backgrounds gave for declining consent/authorisation for organ donation were that they felt it was against their religious or cultural beliefs or they were unsure whether the patient would have agreed to donation.
There is an urgent need for more families to support organ donation, as the number of patients from all backgrounds waiting for transplants continues to rise rapidly. This includes a large rise in the numbers of people actively waiting for kidneys, where a match is more likely to be found when donors are of the same ethnicity.
As of March 31, 2023, there were 2,237 people from ethnic minority backgrounds on the active organ transplant list, up from 1,967 in March 2022 – the majority waiting for a kidney. This increase is primarily attributed to the reactivation of non-urgent patients on the kidney and liver transplant lists, which were suspended during the peak of the pandemic. 2,014 of those Black and Asian patients are currently waiting for a kidney, accounting for 37% of the kidney waiting list.
Everyone who supports organ donation can confirm their decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register. It is a simple action which only takes two minutes, but can ultimately save lives.
Read the full report here.