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Charity scheme gives Scottish organ donor register a boost by Rosie Loft

12 September 2019

Over a 1,000 people from minority ethnic groups in Scotland have been inspired to sign the organ donor register, thanks to the work of Kidney Research UK.

The charity-led initiative is funded by the Scottish Government and has been running for over five years in Scotland, predominantly in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Kidney Research UK’s scheme uses peer educators, who are volunteers from communities at high risk of kidney disease, to help dispel myths and improve understanding around the importance of organ donation.

Scottish Peer Educators

Often attending places of worship and community events, volunteers talk to people about kidney health, organ donation and the shortage of organ donors.

The Scottish project centres on people from South Asian communities, as well as engaging with and encouraging all communities on these issues.

Peter Storey, programme lead for health equalities at Kidney Research UK, said: “The news that more people from BAME backgrounds than ever were able to donate their organs in the past year is very welcome. Spreading the word about the importance of signing the organ donor register, including through the efforts of our peer educators, has helped with this. Our work has shown that asking volunteers to engage with people within their own communities is the most effective method of raising awareness and bringing culturally sensitive topics into the open.”

UK figures show imbalance

During Organ Donation Week this year (September 2 – 7), NHS Blood and Transplant released new figures showing that, in the last five years, there has been a 51 per cent increase in the number of people from ethnic backgrounds who donated their organs after they died across the whole of the UK.

However, these UK statistics show a stark imbalance. People from BAME backgrounds are more likely to progress faster towards kidney failure, yet only 19 per cent of people from BAME backgrounds receive a kidney transplant within one year of joining the waiting list, compared with 31 percent of people from white backgrounds.

“The need to engage with minority communities and encourage conversation about organ donation is more important than ever,” added Mr Storey.

“New legislation is coming into place in 2020 in England and Scotland so that most adults may be considered as potential donors when they die, unless they have opted out. Bereaved families will still have an important role in making sure that NHS staff know what their relative’s views on donation were, so letting your family know your decision can be an enormous help at what can be a very difficult time.”

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