First patient transplanted under new urgent and superurgent lung allocation scheme

6 June 2017

The first patient has undergone a transplant under the UK’s new urgent and super urgent lung allocation schemes.

These new schemes have been introduced to help make sure patients who are in most need of the donor lungs are prioritised.

Previously, patients were prioritised by individual transplant centres when a suitable donor became available. Lungs were primarily allocated based on regional zones.

Patients who are rapidly deteriorating on waiting lists can now be registered for a super urgent or urgent lung transplant. They will be part of a national list with access to suitable donors across the UK.

Sally Johnson said: “Under the new system, patients across the UK who are at most risk of dying on the waiting list will be given higher priority for a transplant.

“Last year, (2015/16) 55 people died waiting for a lung transplant and we believe these new allocation schemes will save more lives. We urge people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and tell their families they want to become donors.”

Steven Tsui is a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and also chair of the Cardiothoracic Advisory Group at NHS Blood and Transplant.

He said: “Specialists from all the UK’s lung transplant units have worked together to develop this scheme.

“The most critically ill patients, for example those receiving extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) or Novalung (iLA), will now get priority allocation of donor organs. We hope that patients who are most in need of a lung transplant will now have a better chance of receiving this life saving treatment and that we can reduce the high waiting list mortality for lung transplant.”

David Ramsden, CEO for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust said:  “Our 'Hope for More' campaign called for a national lung transplant allocation system so that people in desperate need of a life-saving lung transplant receive one as soon as possible.  We hope this change will make a real difference for people with cystic fibrosis.

“Currently one in three people living with the condition and in need of a lung transplant will die on the waiting list. We continue to urge people who sign up to the donor register to tell loved ones their wishes.”

The ongoing work on organ allocation is part of NHS Blood and Transplant’s ODT Hub Programme, which is improving how donors and waiting list patients are referred, assessed, and matched.

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.

  • For additional information please contact Stephen Bailey on 0151 268 7017 or 
  • Alternatively call the NHSBT Press Office on 01923 367 600 or email
  • For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

Further information

  • There are six licensed lung transplant centres in the UK: Birmingham, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Harefield, Manchester, Newcastle and Papworth. Newcastle transplant adult and paediatric patients, and Great Ormond Street transplant paediatric patients only.
  • Last year, the most common illnesses that led to patients needing transplants were, in order; cystic fibrosis and bronchiectasis; lung fibrosis; and emphysema.
  • On the Super Urgent Lung Allocation Scheme, donor organs will be offered in the order of the time the patient spent waiting on the super-urgent list for this registration. Lungs are not offered to patients who are blood group incompatible with the donor.

Notes to Editors

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority. We are responsible for ensuring a safe and efficient supply of blood and associated services to the NHS in England. We are also the organ donation organisation for the UK and are responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • Every day across the UK around three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren’t enough organ donors. We need more people to agree to organ donation
  • Anyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register, age and medical conditions are not necessarily a barrier to donation.
  • One donor can save or transform up to nine lives through organ donation and transform even more by donating tissue.
  • There is a particular need for more black and Asian organ donors. More black, Asian and minority ethnic donors are needed to improve the chances of these patients getting the transplant they need.

What is organ donation?