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50 years since the moon landings, we need kidney transplant progress to speed up by Rosie Loft

18 July 2019

We cautiously welcome the news that numbers of people waiting for a kidney on the transplant waiting list has fallen for the tenth year in a row. At the end of March 2019, there were 4,977 people on the list waiting for a new kidney – a one per cent drop since the previous year and a 31 per cent fall since 2010.

The figures come from NHSBT’s Organ Donation Activity report 2018/19 which was released today. The NHSBT report has also found that the average time an adult patient is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant has fallen from 782 days to 706 days.

This is great news. But only one more kidney transplant took place this year compared to last; 3,594 kidney transplants in total. This progress just isn’t fast enough.

Kidneys continue to be the organ most in demand for transplant, with over three times as many people waiting for a kidney compared to those waiting for heart, lung, liver or pancreas transplants combined.

Transplant infographic

Transplantation has come a long way, but there’s more to do

“This week, we’ve celebrated 50 years since the first moon landing, and we must remember that kidney transplants back in 1969 were extremely rare,” commented Sandra Currie, chief executive at Kidney Research UK.

“Things are obviously very different now – we have made much progress and transplantation is a vital treatment for people. But the reality is that 260 people died last year while on the waiting list for a kidney. Thousands of people are suspended or removed from the list each year, often because their health deteriorates – and so are denied the chance of the more normal life a transplant offers.”

Kidney Research UK is carrying out research into many aspects of transplantation, including projects aimed at helping patients whose bodies might reject donor organs by tackling the antibodies which might attack foreign tissue.

End stage kidney failure continues to rise

“We’re acutely aware of the big picture,” continued Sandra. “The number of people at end stage kidney failure continues to rise by three per cent year on year, so the pressure on the NHS for transplants and dialysis care will persist. Early detection and prevention are therefore key areas of our research programme.”

What can you do?

Across the UK, 26.5 million people have joined the opt-in Organ Donor Register, which is 40 per cent of the population. Just over 643,000 people are on the opt-out Organ Donor Register.

From spring 2020 the law in England is changing so that, as in Wales, adults will be considered as potential donors when they die, unless they have opted out. Bereaved families will still have the final say in what happens. Legislation in Scotland is set to change similarly whilst the opt-in system remains in Northern Ireland.

• To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit or call 0300 123 2323. Don’t forget to tell your loved ones your wishes

• If you’d like to make a donation to help fund our research, find out more.

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