Bedfordshire expert joins march in aid of organ donation

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Gurch Randhawa, Professor of Diversity in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, walked alongside organ recipients, donor families, specialist nurses, clinical staff, community and faith leaders from around London on Thursday 5 September as part of Organ Donation Week (2-6 September 2019).

The walk included meet-up points organised at the entrances to five London hospitals: Royal Free Hospital Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Palace Rd, The Royal London Hospital, King's College Hospital, and University College Hospital.

At the end of the walk, Prof Randhawa, was invited to speak outside the Houses of Parliament and called for more to be done to increase organ donation conversations among all sections of the UK's multi-ethnic and multi-faith population. Specifically, he highlighted the need to address cultural as well as religious concerns related to organ donation via grassroots community engagement.

“In the UK, there were 6,077 patients waiting for a transplant at the end of March 2019,” said Prof Randhawa, named as part one of the MadeAtUni campaign’s top 100 individuals whose work is saving lives and making a life-changing difference to our health and wellbeing.

“Although there has been a slight increase in the overall consent/authorisation rate for organ donation in the UK from 66% to 67% this year, with 25.3million opt-in registrations on the Organ Donor Registry, the number of patients whose lives were saved or improved by an organ transplant fell by 2% to 4,990.* As these statistics reveal, more needs to be done to increase awareness of the importance of organ donation in the UK.

“One way this can be done is through promoting dialogue about organ donation with local communities and work with faith leaders across the country to raise awareness of this issue. Organ failure affects people from a wide range of social, age, gender, educational, cultural, faith and ethnic backgrounds. As such, conversations on this subject need to reach a wide breadth of ethnic and faith backgrounds."

“But we also need to be able to identify ‘cultural’ as opposed to ‘religious’ concerns. Within hospitals, there need to be clear guidelines on how to approach individuals with requests for the donation of their loved one’s organs, coupled with specific training and counselling relating to working with families from a range of ethnic and faith backgrounds.”

Prof Randhawa also highlighted the importance of creating a discussion about organ donation within local communities.

He said: “The Department of Health - which commissioned the UK Government’s Organ Donation Taskforce to identify barriers to organ donation and recommended actions to increase organ donation within the current opt-in legal framework – in collaboration with partners such as the University of Bedfordshire has started a dialogue around organ donation with local communities and work with faith leaders across the UK."

“The impact of these types of initiatives aimed at potential donors and community leaders, can make the difference between life and death for many. As the new deemed consent system is launched in April 2020, it is imperative the pro-active public engagement continues," concluded Professor Randhawa who serves on the Deemed Consent Campaign Advisory Group. 

*According to NHS Organ Donation report (figures as of the end of March 2019)

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