Organ Donation

News releases

Celebrities back new campaign to urge asian communites to join the NHS Organ Donor Register

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Celebrities, Nina Wadia, Pooja Shah, Riz Ahmed and Salima Saxton are backing NHS Blood and Transplant's (NHSBT) new campaign to urge more Asian people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register (ODR), so that more lives can be saved through organ donation.

Currently, nearly 16%* of patients awaiting organ transplants are from Asian communities - 1,194 people - yet these communities account for only 1.4%** of those who have signed up to the ODR.

Swati Bhagat, 30, from Harrow, donated her left kidney to her mum, Kanchan Bhagat, who had lived with chronic kidney disease for twelve years. At a regular check up, it was revealed that her condition had started to deteriorate and that she would have to begin regular hospital dialysis.

Swati said: "I just wanted my mum in my life for as long as possible and if it meant that I had to give her a kidney then that was what I was going to do. We have an even stronger family bond now and I'm so pleased to have been able to help my mum in such a profound way.

"Most people would accept a donated organ if they needed one, but fewer than 2% of people on the register are Black and Asian. If you'd be willing to receive a donated organ, you should be willing to donate and join the Register."

Actress Nina Wadia, who plays Zainab Masood in EastEnders, is also supporting the campaign and urging more Asians to join the ODR. She said; "Sadly, because of a desperate shortage of Asian people on the NHS Organ Donor Register, many will die while they are waiting for a vital transplant.

"It's a problem that we can tackle though, I'd urge everyone to really consider joining the Register and doing something to help their community."

Asian people are more susceptible to illnesses such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart disease, which may result in organ failure and the need for a lifesaving transplant, but because of a lack of suitable organs, they often wait up to three times as long for a transplant than the general population.

Alia Rashid, Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation, NHS Blood & Transplant, said: "It is vital that more Asian people join the NHS Organ Donor Register. The message is quite simple - more Asian patients will have the opportunity to receive a life-saving transplant if more people from those communities join the Register."

"Transplants can be carried out between people from different ethnic groups, but an organ is more likely to be a close match, and as a result a transplant is much more likely to be successful, if the donor and recipient have the same ethnic origin. Becoming an organ donor means that you could help save or enhance up to nine lives."

A host of celebrities are getting behind the campaign which will see roadshows held in London, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester and Leicester over the next few months to highlight the need for more organ donors. Teams will also be visiting shopping centres, churches, temples and supermarkets in a bid to boost Black and Asian numbers on the ODR.

To join the NHS Organ Donor Register visit or , call the NHS Donor Line on 0300 123 00 00 or text ORGAN to 64118.

To find your nearest event please visit


Issued by COI News and PR on behalf of NHS Blood and Transplant. For interviews, case studies and celebrity endorsements, please contact: Kam Phullar on 0207 261 8420 or

Other celebrities endorsing the campaign include:

Actress Pooja Shah: "I urge anyone from any background to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. But we're especially short of Asian people on the register at the moment, and more than 1,000 Asians are currently waiting for a life-changing transplant operation as result. When I thought about the difference I might make to the life of someone in my community it made it a very easy decision for me to sign up."

Actor, Riz Ahmed: "All I needed to do was to look at it from the point of view of the recipient and their family. When you imagine the difference you might be able to make to a family or a community why wouldn't you want to sign up?

"If it was someone from my family needing an organ transplant I know I'd be desperate to see them get the transplant they need."

Actress, Salima Saxton: "There are well over 1,000 Asian people in the UK waiting for an organ transplant which might save their life. If you're considering joining the NHS Organ Donor Register, do it - but make sure you also discuss your wishes with your family - because in the event of potentially becoming a donor they will have the final decision."

Notes to editors

*  Source: NHSBT - number of Asian people on the "active" transplant list at 08.09.11 was 1194, which equates to 15.4% of the total UK waiting list

** Source: NHSBT - number of people based on reported ethnicity on the NHS Organ Donor Register - note ethnicity has only been captured against 3,247,929 records

  • NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. Its remit includes the provision of a reliable, efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • The NHS Organ Donor Register records the details of people who have registered their wishes to donate organs and/or tissue after their death for transplantation. After someone has died, this information is checked by authorised medical staff to establish whether a person wanted to donate.
  • Anyone can register on the ODR. Age isn't a barrier to being an organ or tissue donor and neither are most medical conditions. People in their 70s and 80s have become organ donors and saved many lives. The oldest recorded cornea donor was 102.
  • One donor can save or transform up to nine lives and many more can be helped through the donation of tissues.
  • There are currently 7,727 (at 08.09.11) people in the UK on the active waiting list for an organ transplant, of which the total number of Black and Asian people in the UK on the waiting list is currently 1,842. This figure changes constantly as people join and leave the transplant list. Further people are on the suspended list because they are too ill or unable to receive a transplant at present. This brings the current total needing an organ transplant in the UK to more than 10,000.
  • Between April 2010 - March 2011, more than 7,300 organ and cornea transplants (3,740 organ and 3,564 cornea transplants) were carried out in the UK, thanks to the generosity of deceased and living donors - the highest on record.
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