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Organ donation law change awareness campaign launches

NHS Blood and Transplant launches a year-long national campaign to increase awareness and understanding of the new organ donation law which comes into place next year, across England.

25 April 2019
  • Only 37% of over 16s in England currently aware that the law is changing
  • 8 out of 10 people in England say they would definitely donate or would consider donating their organs, but only a third have told their family they want to donate
  • Every day, across the UK, three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren’t enough donors, while 6,000 are still waiting

NHS Blood and Transplant today, Thursday 25 April 2019, launches the year-long national campaign, ‘Pass it on’, to increase awareness and understanding of the new organ donation law – Max and Keira’s Law – which comes into place next year, across England.

From spring 2020, all adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups.

Those excluded will be people under 18, people who lack the capacity to understand the change and people who have lived in England for less than 12 months before their death or who are not living here voluntarily.

The campaign, ‘Pass it on’, aims to highlight organ donation and the law change on several different levels:

  • Organ donation is a precious gift -  you can save and transform up to nine lives by passing on your organs
  • Make and share your decision - it’s your choice whether or not you want to donate. Make your decision and pass it on to those closest to you
  • Spread the word - help pass on the message about the change in the law around organ donation in England, and what it means, to others


A survey* carried out by NHS Blood and Transplant in January 2019, found only 37% of people over 16 were aware that the law around organ donation was changing. While this rose to half of over 55s, amongst certain groups awareness is much lower – for example, only 21% of 16 - 20 year olds and 27% of people from BAME backgrounds.

*An online survey of 2187 people in England was carried out by Kantar (Research Express) between 15th-21st January 2019.

About the campaign

The campaign, developed with input from people from a range of ages and backgrounds and from across the country, aims to clearly communicate that the law is changing and the choices available, as well as encouraging people to make a decision and share this with their family.

A person gives a heart-shaped balloon to another personThe main creative concept aims to portray the gift of organ donation. It features a person holding a digitally created heart (or other organ) shaped balloon. As they release the balloon from their hand, another reaches out to take hold of the string.

Anthony Clarkson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, says: “Organ donation is, and always will be, a precious gift. Although the law is changing it will still be the generosity of individual donors and their families who decide at the most difficult time to support organ donation, which will ensure more transplants can happen and more lives can be saved.

“We want everyone to know the law around organ donation is changing, to understand how it is changing and the choices available to them. We want them to make their organ donation decision and to share that decision with their family.

“While eight in ten people in England tell us they definitely want to donate or would consider donating, only just over a third of adults have told their partner or family that they want to donate their organs after they die. Regardless of the organ donation decision you make, the most important thing is to make sure your family are aware of your decision.

“We hope that by increasing awareness and understanding of organ donation, we can inspire more individuals and families to agree to donation and allow many more lives to be saved.”

Once the new system is introduced across England, families will still be involved before any organ or tissue donation goes ahead and NHS Blood and Transplant Specialist Nurses will continue to speak with families about their loved one’s decision.

Mark helped eight people through organ donation

Through his death, Mark Piotr (pictured with his wife Karen) helped eight people, donating his heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas, corneas and tissue, after suffering a catastrophic brain bleed in May 2017.

Mark and Karen in formal dressMark, a huge sports fan from Bradford, met his wife Karen as teenagers and they married in 1993. Both were blood donors and signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, and Karen knew he wanted to donate.

Karen says: “When Mark was taken into hospital, I was told the next 24 hours were vital. 24 hours can seem like an eternity when you are waiting for a ray of light, a miracle or that happy bit of news about your husband. Up to this point he was healthy, happy and full of life, he’d almost never had a sick day in the 31 years we’d been together.

“Sadly, despite surgery and the team’s best efforts, Mark didn’t regain consciousness. The doctor approached me and everything around me stopped. He told me there was nothing more they could do. Adrenaline surged through me and I immediately said, ‘We’re organ donors, what about his organs – can they be used?’ I knew it’s what Mark would have wanted, he was such a selfless person, he would always try to help people.

“A specialist nurse for organ donation came to speak with me. He was patient, kind and a bit nervous of the questions he had to ask. I didn’t feel rushed or pressured. I asked questions.

“Through his selfless act Mark saved and improved the lives of eight people – how amazing and special. I thought of the recipients who would be getting the news that an organ had been found, this brought me joy and hope in my darkest hours.

“It made such a difference that I knew he wanted to be an organ donor. Even though the law is changing, please don’t leave your family to guess what you wanted. It is so important to have that conversation and let them know your wishes.”

The ‘Pass it on’ campaign is being supported by charities and community groups, including British Heart Foundation, Kidney Care UK, Donor Family Network, Share Your Wishes, ACLT and National BAME Transplant Alliance.

Jackie Doyle-Price, Minister for Inequalities says: "Far too many people in need of an organ transplant are still dying on a waiting list. We hope that Max and Keira's Law will save hundreds of lives when it comes into effect next year - but until then, it’s vital people understand what the new law means for them.

“I want to reassure everyone that choosing to give the gift of life still is and always will remain a personal decision. I strongly urge people to talk to their loved ones about their wishes and make their decision clear on the register."

Digital adverts will run across relevant social media channels with online resources and a toolkit available for individual supporters, community groups and partner organisations. Videos, animations, factsheets and FAQs plus printed materials will also be available. Access online resources 

To find out more about organ donation, the law change, or to opt in or out, visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call the dedicated advice line on 0300 303 2094.

Contact us

For additional information please contact the NHS Blood and Transplant press office on 01923 367 600 or email pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk

For urgent out of hours enquiries please call 0117 969 2444

Key points

  • From spring 2020, the law around organ and tissue donation in England is changing
  • All adults in England will be considered as having agreed to donate their own organs when they die unless they record a decision not to donate or are in one of the excluded groups
  • Adults covered by the change will still have a choice whether they want to be an organ donor and their families will still be involved before organ donation goes ahead
  • Whatever your decision, make your choice clear to your family and closest friends to ensure your choice is honoured
  • You can find answers to commonly asked questions about changes to organ donation

NHS Blood and Transplant

  • NHS Blood and Transplant is a joint England and Wales Special Health Authority
  • We provide the blood donation service for England and the organ donation service for the UK
  • We also provide donated tissues, stem cells and cord blood
  • We are an essential part of the NHS, saving and improving lives through public donation

Organ donation

  • It is quick and easy to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Call 0300 123 23 23 or visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk
  • Families are always involved in organ donation discussions. You can make things easier for your family by telling them you want to donate
  • Every day across the UK around three people who could have benefited from a transplant die because there aren’t enough organ donors
  • 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 save and transforms even more by donating tissue