Coronavirus (COVID-19): the latest updates
Last reviewed: 08 January 2021
We understand that this is a very worrying time for those awaiting an organ transplant, and transplant recipients.
The safety of organ donation and transplantation is our priority.
We are working to continue organ donation where possible, to enable transplants to go ahead if appropriate.
How is organ donation and transplantation responding?
Every potential organ donor is being tested for COVID-19 and if someone has COVID-19 they will not be able to donate.
Although there is no known transmission of COVID-19 through organ donation, as patients who need a transplant have to be immuno-suppressed, any risks need to be minimised as much as possible.
Dr Dale Gardiner, National Clinical Lead for Organ Donation and Transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant said:
“We know this remains a worrying time for anyone waiting for an organ transplant. With a great team effort across the NHS, deceased organ donation and transplant activity continued for the most urgent patients during the first wave of COVID-19 and returned to pre-COVID levels in the summer, with all transplant centres reopening.
“Once again rising COVID-19 cases are stressing the whole NHS, especially in areas of the UK with high variant COVID-19 numbers. We do have plans in place, with our hospital colleagues, to continue with deceased organ donation and transplant activity as much as possible. We have learnt a lot from the first and second waves of the virus and transplants continue to be a priority across the NHS, with safety remaining paramount. But the current numbers of COVID-19 patients will undoubtedly impact on donation and transplantation activity over the next weeks.
“During the pandemic we have seen incredible family support for organ donation with record numbers of families agreeing to donation and providing those waiting with life-saving organ transplants. This is testament to the strong foundation of altruism, and support for donation, across the UK. We hope to see this continue, particularly now the law around organ donation has changed in England, and with the impending law change in Scotland.”
Lisa Burnapp, Clinical Lead for Living Donation said:
“All living donor transplantation is affected by the current wave of the pandemic and many centres are making difficult decisions to pause their programmes or limit activity to urgent cases only due to the impact of COVID-19. This will vary between centres, depending upon local restrictions.
The UK living kidney sharing scheme was resumed in October and every effort is being made to ensure that those transplants take place over the next few months, although dates for surgery are likely to be delayed. The January matching run has been suspended but we aim to resume the scheme in April.
We understand that the current situation is extremely stressful for patients awaiting a living donor transplant and for their donors. The transplant community continues to work together to restore services and resume ‘business as usual’ as soon as we possibly can.”