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Obesity blamed for fewer eligible organ donors

Whilst the number of organ donors has gone up, the number of usable organs has dropped, with some of this decrease attributed to the growing obesity crisis.

The annual Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report from NHS Blood and Transplant has shown a decrease in eligible deceased organ donors, leading to a drop in potentially life-saving transplants. The report looked at the start of the financial year 2018 to 31st March 2019, comparing figures with the previous year.

In 2018-19 there was a 1.7% increase in the number of deceased donors to 1,600, the highest ever in the UK. However, this was the smallest rise in donors for five years. And of donors with usable, healthy organs, there was a 4% decrease, equating to 225 fewer donors overall.

There was a 2% decrease in the number of transplants from 5,104 to 4,990, and the number of people on the transplant waiting list increased by 1%. 408 people died whilst on the transplant waiting list or within a year of being removed from it. The report explained that: "The decrease in the total number of eligible donors and the subsequent impact on the number of proceeding deceased organ donors, makes it increasingly challenging to maintain the consistent year-on-year increases in donor numbers."

Among the factors preventing organ donation taking place are older and more obese donors and donors being less likely to experience a trauma-related death. The proportion of clinically obese donors has increased from 24% to 29% over the last ten years. The proportion of deceased donors after a trauma death has decreased from 11% to 3% over the same period. All of these factors affect the quality and usability of organs. There has also been a drop in living donor people who may donate a kidney, part of their liver or tissue.

The 1,600 deceased organ donors donated 5,147 organs between them - a 2% decrease from last year. 94% of deceased donors gave a kidney and nearly three quarters donated at least one other organ. Despite decreases, NHS Blood and Transplant still named the programme a 'success story', citing the 67% increase in deceased donors and 49% increase in transplants in the last 10 years.

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