Organ Utilisation Group
The Department of Health and Social Care established the Organ Utilisation Group to review the organ transplantation system.
The Organ Utilisation Group report and supporting documents were published in February 2023. The Group was then disbanded. Oversight of implementation of the recommendations lies with the Department of Health and Social Care’s Implementation Steering Group for Organ Utilisation (ISOU).
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Set up by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and reporting to all Ministers of Health in the UK, the Group aimed to deliver recommendations on how to maximise the potential for organ transplantation and provide a premier healthcare system that delivered equity, excellence, and innovation to meet the needs of those on the transplant waiting list. It was also intended to address how the barriers to organ transplantation could be overcome so that the UK was able to continue as a world-leader in innovation in the field of transplantation and no opportunity for a successful transplant operation was missed.
When the group was established, there had been significant improvements in organ donation rates, with the number of organ donors increasing by 56% over a ten-year period. The introduction of opt-out legislation in England in May 2020 delivered further improvements in the consent rate.
Although there had also been improvements in the transplant rate, these had not kept pace with donation. Increasing age and co-morbidity of both donors and patients were making successful organ utilisation challenging.
The COVID-19 pandemic had also impacted on the waiting list. Whilst the first wave saw fast-tracked improvements to the transplantation service, the reduction in donors and temporary closure of units led to a five-year high of people on the transplant waiting list.
National audits and joint NHS Blood and Transplant / British Transplantation Society summits provided strong evidence of inequalities and variation between units, which were impacting on access to treatment and patient outcomes. These included local limitations on resources and access to novel technologies to support organ transplantation and increase utilisation, which varies between units. Combined, these were leading to inequities in access to transplantation from geographic, socio-economic and ethnicity perspectives.
It was agreed that there was a need to review the organ transplantation infrastructure, to explore how the resources already available could be best utilised, to meet the needs of patients.
The report and recommendations from the Organ Utilisation Group is available on the UK government website, including the following documents:
- Summary Report
- Full Report
- Supporting Evidence
The supporting Written Ministerial Statement by Minister Neil O’Brien is also available.
It was acknowledged that there were a wide range of stakeholders that would have insight and ideas that would inform the work of the Organ Utilisation Group (OUG). It was agreed that there should be a Stakeholder Forum, to bring together stakeholder organisations and provide a way of sharing information and updates on progress.
The Stakeholder Forum had two co-chairs, to represent the transplant service and patients. The OUG secretariat (provided by NHS Blood and Transplant, NHS England and NHS Improvement) also provided support to the Forum. The co-chairs liaised closely with the secretariat and reported to the chair of the OUG.
Whilst the Forum provided the main means of stakeholder engagement with the OUG, it was also agreed that there should be a range of other activities, including an online call for evidence, stakeholder workshops and ad-hoc meetings or visits as appropriate.
To support the work of the Organ Utilisation Group, we contacted stakeholders across the UK and overseas to seek advice and insights on the challenges within transplantation, and examples of innovation and best practice that should be considered for wider implementation.
It was considered important that the Group’s recommendations be founded on the best available evidence from a broad range of stakeholders, including patients, transplant and donation teams, commissioners, government and others.
The call closed on 25th October 2021.
The insights provided informed the work of the Organ Utilisation Group in preparing its recommendations.