IT costs factored into organ donor decision

  • 18 November 2008

The UK Organ Donation Taskforce this week came out against moving to a system of presumed consent for organ donation, arguing the costs could outweigh the benefits.

The government has accepted its recommendations and instead launched a £4.5m campaign aimed at boosting the number of donations. However, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that he has not ruled out a further change in the law if the campaign fails to work.

The Organ Donation Taskforce concluded there was little evidence that moving to an “opt out” for consent would increase the number of organs available for donation.

It also said an electronic database would be needed to run an opt-out system and suggested this could either be done by extending the current Organ Donor Register, by using the NHAIS/Exeter system, or by using the PDS and the NHS Summary Care Record.

The taskforce said use of the PDS and SCR would be its preferred option, but reported that estimated costs could top £20m for initial set up and £2m a year for maintenance.

NHS Connecting for Health estimated that the cost of revamping the Organ Donor Register would be approximately £5m. But it estimated that the cost of changing the PDS and SCR – which would also mean upgrading GP systems to allow communication with the opt-out register and integration with the patient portal, HealthSpace – would be £20m.

The taskforce also pointed out that since the PDS only covers England, while the organ donation scheme is UK-wide, there would also need to be links with similar systems in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The taskforce concluded that “at this time” resources would be better prioritised if they were spent on raising public awareness and understanding of organ donation.

There are currently around 8,000 people in the UK who need an organ transplant but only 3,000 operations are carried out each year. Every year, 1,000 people in the UK die after waiting for a transplant.

Health secretary Alan Johnson has set a target of seeing 20m people on the organ donor register by 2010 and 25m by 2013.

He added: “"If, however, we do not see the number of organ donations rising and progress is not being made we will revisit the issue of whether a change in the law is needed."

The taskforce also recommended that opt-out systems should be reviewed in five year time in light of the success in raising organ donor numbers.


Organ Donation Taskforce Report


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