Waiting time to kidney transplant down 18% but shortage of donors still costing lives

9 March 2017

The waiting time to a kidney transplant has dropped by 18% over the past five years, NHS Blood and Transplant has announced to mark World Kidney Day, Thursday March 9.

Patients now wait an average of 944 days for a lifesaving transplant compared to an average of 1,153 days. (1)

The news comes as the number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register has reached its highest ever figure, 23.53million. Last year, 2015/2016, the UK also had the highest ever number of deceased organ donors,

Sally Johnson, NHS Blood and Transplant Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation said: “We’re encouraged that the number of people becoming donors has helped reduce how long desperately ill people wait before they receive a kidney transplant

“However there is a still a severe shortage of donated organs. Two and a half years is far too long to wait for a kidney and far too many people die without ever receiving the transplant they need. Organ donation saves lives and we urge people to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and talk to their families about their decision.” 

Kidney patients still make up the majority of the patients on the transplant waiting list and the majority of the people who die waiting for a transplant die waiting for a kidney.

Since last year’s World Kidney Day, 62% of the patients who have died waiting for an organ transplant were patients waiting for a kidney, or a kidney and another organ. (2)

Jade Carr, 23, from Widnes in Cheshire, has spent four years in need of a kidney transplant. Her poor health means she is not currently on the waiting list because she would be unlikely to recover from the operation.

Jade had a heart transplant as a three-year-old and went on to win medals in the World Transplant Games but her immunosuppressants have damaged her kidney function. She is now seriously ill and largely housebound. 

Jade said: “A transplant would give me back that chance at life, and some kind of normality. I am out of hope with family members being able to donate to me. My mum can’t because of her heart condition and my dad isn’t a match for my blood group.

“You can be someone’s hero by becoming a donor, either by donating in death or by donating a kidney while you still alive.”

The majority of deceased donors who are able to donate their organs for life saving transplants are able to donate their kidneys. Kidneys can often be donated even when it is not possible to donate other organs.

Jamie Madden, a mechanic and electrician from Sandhurst in Berkshire died in June 2015 aged 32 and was able to donate his kidneys. He was working on a friend’s car when the axle stand gave way and the car collapsed on him. 

His wife Hannah found Jamie under the car on their driveway.

“I was just faced with the shock of losing my husband, and my initial thought was ‘you are not touching him’,” said Hannah, 35, a childminder.

“But my husband was incredibly giving. And after speaking to his mum and dad and after thinking about it we decided to donate.”

After the donation, Hannah and her two children received letters telling them Jamie’s kidneys had been successfully transplanted.

“When I got the letter, I started crying. I was very proud because Jamie lives on in somebody else.”

Around a third of all people waiting for a kidney transplant are from black and Asian communities. People from these communities have a higher incidence of conditions such as diabetes, making them more likely to need a kidney transplant. People from the same ethnic background are more likely to be a match. 

Diljit Kaur Sambhi, 60, from Darlington, had a kidney transplant in 2013. She first started feeling ill when she began constantly vomiting a green fluid. Doctors think her kidney failure was probably down to an infection combined with undiagnosed diabetes.

Her daughter Am Sambhi, 34, said: “We knew we might never receive that phone call. Finding a match can be difficult and being from an ethnic group makes it more difficult.

“It was truly unbelievable to get the call at 5am for the transplant and that moment will stay with me forever. 

“Before we left for the hospital we went to our temple, the Gudwara, to give thanks for this amazing miracle. No words can describe the difference my mum’s donor has made to all of our lives.

“We thank them and say a prayer for them every day.”

  • Join the NHS Organ Donor Register today. And tell your loved ones that you want them to support you donating if you can help others when you die – don’t leave anyone in any doubt about your decision.
  • www.organdonation.nhs.uk
  • #timetosign #organdonation #worldkidneyday

(1)        Median waiting time to kidney only transplant in the UK for patients registered 1 April 2004 to March 31 2008 was 1,153 days. Median waiting time to kidney only transplant in the UK for patients registered 1 April 2009 to March 31 2013 was 944 days.

(2)        NHSBT records show 411 patients died on the active waiting list for a transplant between March 10 2016 and March 2 2017, or within one year of removal, and of these, 256 people were waiting for a kidney, or a kidney and another organ.


  • For additional information please contact Stephen Bailey on 0151 268 7017 or stephen.bailey@nhsbt.nhs.uk  
  • Alternatively call the NHSBT Press Office on 01923 367 600 or email pressoffice@nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • For out of hours enquiries please call: 0117 969 2444

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.
  • We are an essential part of the NHS and take pride in saving and improving lives by making the most of every voluntary donation, from blood and organs to tissues and stem cells.
  • Our work would not be possible without our donors - ordinary people doing extraordinary things by saving and improving the lives of others.
  • To find out more visit: www.nhsbt.nhs.uk
  • It is quick and easy to join the NHS Organ Donor Register. Visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk or contact our 24 hour a day donor line - 0300 123 23 23.
  • The register records your decision on whether you want to donate your organs and/or tissue after your death to save and improve the lives of others. It is used by authorised medical staff to establish whether someone has registered an organ donation decision.
  • Letting your family know your organ donation decision will make it much easier for them to support what you want.
  • 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. Patients from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities are over-represented on the transplant waiting list. More than a quarter (26%) of those on the waiting list are Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic while a 1/3 of people on the kidney waiting list are from these communities. People from Black and Asian communities have a higher incidence of conditions such as diabetes and certain forms of hepatitis, making them more likely to need a transplant. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic patients make up a third of the active kidney transplant waiting list.  Although some are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, for many the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic donors are needed to improve the chances of these patients getting the kidney transplant they need.
  • Whilst there may be some individual concerns relating to religious or cultural practices, all the major religions support organ donation.

Become a living kidney donor