Background: During the past few years the number of organ donors in the UK has declined after a slow but steady increase during the 1980s. Concern about the decline led to a survey by the British Transplantation Society. The report of this survey highlighted a number of reasons for the decline and this manuscript presents and discuss the main items in the report.
Methods: Comprehensive information relating to organ donation was obtained by a combination of structured interviews during visits to intensive care units (ICUs) and neurosurgical units, the use of detailed questionnaires sent to all UK ICUs, and from the register held by the United Kingdom Transplant Support Service Authority.
Results: The information obtained highlighted a number of reasons for the decline in organ donor numbers and these are presented and discussed. The pool of potential donors is shrinking as death rates from road traffic accidents and intracranial haemorrhage decrease. Also the increasing use of modern imaging techniques has improved predictive ability in patients with severe brain damage with the result that more patients whose prognosis is assessed as hopeless are not treated by ventilation. Inadequacies both in intensive care unit bed provision and the resourcing of the transplant co-ordinator service were also thought to be important.
Conclusions: Eight recommendations have been made, covering ICU bed provision, neurosurgical provision, transplant surgical staffing, the transplant co-ordinator network, reimbursement to donor units, asystolic donation, live donor transplantation, and interventional ventilation.