A campaign to increase the number of people signed up to the organ donation register from black, Asian and other non-white minority ethnic backgrounds, launches today.

Ahead of the launch, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, junior minister for health and social care, visited the Royal Free Hospital, one of the leading transplant centres in the country, and spoke to current and former patients, as well as staff.

She spoke to surgeons and nurses on the transplant unit and to specialist organ donor nurses about some of the historic cultural and religious barriers to donation from non-white communities. 

Asia Imedi, lead nurse for renal transplantation at the Royal Free Hospital, shared her experience. She said: “Despite my job and being signed up to the organ donor register, my father was adamant that if I died and he was asked if my organs could be used for transplantation he would refuse. It took him many years to understand my way of thinking and respect that this was my decision to make.”  

Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients make up a third of the active kidney transplant waiting list. Generally, these patients wait significantly longer for a kidney transplant than white patients if they are fortunate enough to receive an organ from a donor. Sadly, many will die waiting.

Ms Doyle-Price visited the transplant ward and met Olson Roberts, 47, who was recovering from a kidney transplant. She heard how his health had been deteriorating for years before he received his new kidney.

He said: “It’s so important that this issue is raised and that we discuss it openly and honestly in our communities and seek to change perceptions. I totally back this campaign for more people from non-white communities to join the organ donor register and also have those difficult conversations with their loved ones to ensure that their decision is not overruled.”

Ms Doyle-Price said:  “I am delighted that this year more people than ever from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds have received life-saving transplants. This shows great progress, but the fact remains that if you are from any one of these communities you are more likely to need a transplant, for the simple reason that you are more likely to suffer from a disease that requires a transplant. At the same time, you are less likely to get a transplant than if you were white. 
“The campaign we are launching today will be a driving force to save more lives. The Government, MPs, faith leaders, charities, campaigners, influencers, friends and families, all have a role to play to address myths and barriers and bring attention to the lifesaving power of donation.”

The Royal Free Hospital transplants more than 250 livers and kidneys every year. In 2017/18 the hospital transplanted 139 kidneys and 118 livers. 

People from black and Asian communities are more likely to develop conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis than white people. This makes them more likely to need a transplant.

PIC: Jackie Doyle-Price is joined by campaigners, staff and former Royal Free Hospital patients including Prafula Shah (centre right) who donated her kidney as part of a 'paired donation' to increase the chances of her niece receiving a kidney. Read the full story here.