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Transforming the lives of strangers by donating a kidney

By jspiteri  |  Posted: February 17, 2014

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More than 250 ordinary people in the UK have now given one of their healthy kidneys to a stranger on the NHS kidney transplant waiting list, an act known as non-directed or altruistic kidney donation.

Figures show that there have now been more than 250 donations of this kind in the UK.

Dr Chris Burns-Cox, Chair of national charity Give a Kidney which aims to raise awareness of this type of donation said: “250 donations is certainly a significant milestone. The number of people coming forward to offer a kidney to a stranger is increasing significantly year-on-year as more people become aware it is something that is possible. There are almost 6000 people in need of a kidney transplant in the UK, and around 300 people die each year in need of a kidney. That is almost one person every day. Humans only need one kidney to live a perfectly normal, healthy life, and so there are millions of people walking around with the potential to save a life in this way. The altruism of the growing number of people willing to offer such a special gift is wonderful, but there is still a long way to go before we make a real dent on the waiting list. We hope this news will encourage others to consider whether it is something they could do.”

Kidney transplants have been taking place in the UK since 1960 and around 1000 living donor transplants take place in the UK each year. The majority of these transplanted kidneys come from friends or relatives of the recipient. In 2006 the Human Tissue Act made it legal for strangers to donate a kidney to someone in need and the first altruistic kidney donation in the UK took place in 2007.

Mr Paul Gibbs, transplant surgeon at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The increasing number of people coming forward to donate a kidney to someone who needs it is fantastic. Not only do living kidneys generally last longer than those from deceased donors, it also means the surgery can be planned in the very best of circumstances. Aside from the general health and well-being of the patient, transplants also make significant cost-savings for the NHS when compared to the costs involved in keeping a patient suffering kidney disease on dialysis. The cost saving varies for every patient, but can be estimated at around £20,000 per annum, or £200,000 for every ten years the transplanted kidney functions properly. There are statistical models predicting that many kidneys from live donors transplanted today will last more than 30 years, so the cost-saving becomes very significant as the number of new donors increase. As a rough calculation, if the 250 kidneys were to last an average of 15 years each, which is entirely plausible, the estimated cost-saving to the NHS from these 250 donated kidneys could be somewhere in the region of £7.5m.”

People seeking more information on how to donate a kidney can visit www.giveakidney.org for details.

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