Organ and tissue donation – a vital lesson that can help to save lives

6 September 2017

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) wants to educate more young people about organ and tissue donation. The organisation’s teaching resources have been developed to help schools across the country to engage 11-16 year olds on this important subject so students can make a difference and save lives.

NHSBT is asking teachers across England to introduce organ and tissue donation lessons, to present the facts on an issue that is still misunderstood by many people and hopefully prompt pupils to have wider discussions with family and friends.

Two years ago NHSBT introduced teaching resources, designed to equip secondary school teachers with the knowledge and tools to educate and engage students about organ and tissue donation. These resources have received positive feedback from schools, and to date have achieved over 10,000 downloads from the NHSBT website page and YouTube channel (combined).

Jackie Abbott, now Assistant Head at Feversham College in Bradford said:

“I thought that learning about organ donation would fit in to the Personal Development Studies programme for 16 year olds at my previous school. I also arranged for a former student with cystic fibrosis to speak about what it’s like to be waiting for a transplant. While the pupils did understand that organ donation is a matter for personal choice, they realised that it could be a member of their family or indeed themselves who could one day need a transplant.”

The pack, for secondary schools in England, has been updated for the coming academic year. The resource now includes more explicit messaging about the importance of discussing organ and tissue donation and provides a clear call to action to ask young people to go home and discuss organ and tissue donation with their families.

They also feature new case studies. One of them, 20-year-old Izzy Sewell, currently waiting for a kidney transplant, said:

“At the moment it feels like my life’s on hold. I feel trapped because you can’t travel or go too far from home. I think one of the hardest things about waiting is not knowing when I will get my call. It could be tomorrow, next week or six years from now. Constantly waiting for that call is a huge anxiety.”

“As soon as I can have my transplant it will be like a breath of fresh air. I want to travel to Australia and Thailand and start a nursing course. However, right now I don’t feel like I can plan my own life. There are so many things I want to do, like travelling, and going to university, but until I get my transplant, I just don’t know what I can do or when.”

The pack, aimed at Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4 students (11 to 16 year-olds) in England, includes lesson plans and materials linked to the Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) National Curriculum.

Sally Johnson, NHS Blood and Transplant Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, said:

"In order to help the thousands of people who are waiting now for a transplant, we need people to say yes to organ donation, when faced with making the decision.

“Last year, nearly half of families who didn’t know enough about organ donation and weren’t aware of their relative’s wishes said no to organ donation and a further 89 families said no, overruling their relatives decision¹.

“We believe education has a vital role to play in addressing people’s concerns about organ donation. This education pack will give young people the facts about organ donation. We hope that this will not only make them think about what they would want to do themselves but it will also start discussions with their own families and friends. A few words now can make an extraordinary difference.

“We’re grateful to everyone who has shared their personal stories for the teaching resources and look forward to organ and tissue donation becoming part of every child’s education.”

NHS Blood and Transplant’s pack is designed to give teachers materials to educate and engage students, empowering them to discuss organ and tissue donation with their family and friends.

The pack includes three lesson plans, each around 45 to 60 minutes, carefully linked to the PSHE National Curriculum. Resources include videos recorded with donor families and transplant patients, and take home fact sheets to facilitate conversations at home.

There are currently² 6,414 people on the transplant waiting list, including 178 children. Last year, 4,753 organ transplants took place across the UK. Sadly 456 adults and 14 children died last year while on the transplant waiting list. A further 875 people were removed from the list, mainly because they were too ill to undergo transplant surgery. Many of these patients will have died shortly after removal from the list

David Weston, 36, from Barnet in Greater London, is a teacher and a liver transplant recipient who runs the Teacher Development Trust.

He said: “School children often asked me how they know if you're 'really dead', and about whether you can choose which bits of your body you can donate. Many of them were surprised at just how many lives can be saved when one person donates.”

The pack is now available as a free digital download at:

  1. Organ Donation and Transplantation Annual Report 2016/2017
  2. Waiting list statistics as of August 25 2017.

For more information contact Penny Richardson in the NHS Blood and Transplant Press Office on 0151 268 7033 or via  

Alternatively contact the press office on 01923 367600 or via

For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

 Notes to editors

  •  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. It is also the organ donor organisation for the whole of the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  •  Around 24 million people in the UK have already signed onto the NHS Organ Donor Register. These people have joined the Register to record their decision to donate organs and/or tissue after their death for transplantation. This information is used by authorised medical staff to establish whether a person wanted to donate.
  •  It’s clear that young people can make a difference and under 21s already make up nearly a quarter of people signed up on the NHS Organ Donor Register. 
  •  It is quick and easy to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Visit or contact our 24 hour a day donor line - 0300 123 23 23.

Download our teaching resources