World Kidney Day

12 March 2015

People who offer a kidney to a stranger (non-directed altruistic donors) will soon be able to help not one, but three patients desperately hoping for a life-changing kidney transplant.

Today, on World Kidney Day, NHS Blood and Transplant is announcing an ambitious extension of its shared donation scheme - a move which will result in it being possible for a chain of up to three kidney transplants to be triggered thanks to the generosity of one stranger.

Year on year, more people are stepping forward as living donors. Increasing numbers of these are opting into the National Living Donor Kidney Sharing Scheme.

Latest figures show almost 400 patients have benefited from shared donation - which allows pooling of organs from willing donors who are not a suitable match for their own sick loved ones.

In 2012, it became possible for a stranger to also link with the sharing scheme. They give a kidney to a patient in the shared scheme, and, in turn, that recipient's friend or relative donates simultaneously to someone on the deceased organ waiting list.

From April 2015 it will be possible for an additional recipient and their friend or relative to be added into a chain started by a non-directed altruistic donor.

Lisa Burnapp, NHS Blood and transplant Lead Nurse for Living Donation said: "Across the UK there are 5,517 people waiting for a kidney transplant. Thanks to the generosity of family, friends and members of the public more patients are enjoying the benefits of a successful transplant.

"We've had great success with short donor chains. Since they began, 48 altruistic donors have triggered 96 life-changing kidney transplants.

"Today, on World Kidney Day, we are delighted to be able to announce an additional link in the donor chains - essentially creating a 3-for-1 transplant chain and allowing more people to benefit from a single living donation."

On average adults who need a kidney transplant wait 3 years and children 12 months for a donor.

Rising numbers of living donors mean 1 in 3 organ transplants are now thanks to the generosity of living donors - the majority (97%) giving a kidney.

Until 2006 living donation was limited to direct exchanges between family members and friends. Changes in the law that year - through the Human Tissue Act - allowed the introduction of donor sharing scheme and non-directed altruistic donation.

Last year 1,114 transplants took place thanks to living donation - 77 of which were through the shared scheme and 23 through donor chains.

Since 2009, NHS Blood and Transplant has given specially designed silver pins to recognise the contribution of living donors.

NHS Blood and Transplant is also today announcing the award of the 5,000th living donor pin.

Lisa Burnapp added: "The award of the 5,000th living donor pin is a fantastic milestone for living donation and a great opportunity to celebrate the innovative developments in sharing organs given by living donors."

Soraya Kadri, 27, from south east London, received her kidney through a paired donation this time last year.

"I was so unwell; I wasn't really able to do anything. I wasn't coping well with dialysis. I was on the transplant list but it felt a bit like all hope was lost," she said.

Soraya, who was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease when she was 20, is now recovering well and fulfilling dreams a year ago she could never have imagined possible.

"I am just so grateful to my donor and also to my friend who made a paired donation. Because of their kindness, two lives have been changed. I'd been told to expect to be on the waiting list a long time and I thought it would never happen; that I was facing a lifetime on dialysis.

"Less than four months after my transplant I did a 10K charity walk in London. It was probably quite ambitious but it meant so much getting to the end and getting my medal. I've also done a skydive. But it is just being able to do every day things that make such a difference - going back to work, meeting friends, going on holiday and doing things that are normal for someone of my age."

Being dependent on long-term dialysis not only seriously reduces quality of life for patients; it is also expensive - costing around £290,000 per patient over 10 years.

In the next five years the UK aims to raise the number of living kidney donations from the current 18.5 per million population to 26pmp.


  • For additional information please contact Maggie Stratton on 01923 367609 or NHS Blood and Transplant Press Office on 01923 367600 or by emailing

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 and North Wales. It is also the organ donor organisation for the UK and is responsible for matching and allocating donated organs.
  • NHS Blood and Transplant co-ordinates the development and implementation of the UK strategies for Living Kidney Donor Transplantation in its role as the UK organ donor organisation. Changes to the National Living Donor Kidney Sharing Scheme are made in accordance with the legal framework set out by the Human Tissue Authority.
  • Altruistic donations have been possible since 2006 when the law changed under the Human Tissue Acts. The rules set out by the Human Tissue Authority allow more flexibility in who can be a living kidney donor and who can donate to whom. This means that more people with kidney failure can benefit from a living donor transplant. As part of the Human Tissue Act the Human Tissue Authority must approve all transplant operations involving living donors following an independent assessment.
  • Since 2009 NHS Blood and Transplant has awarded specially designed silver pins to living donors. The pins were designed by Nottingham based jewellery designer Liz Welch and feature an anchor, representing hope, and the 'Ancient Egyptian 'Ankh' symbol for life or the zest for life. Pins are sent out with a letter of thanks from Ian Trenholm, Chief Executive of NHS Blood and Transplant.
  • Anyone wishing to be an altruistic donor will need to contact their local transplant centre.

Become a living kidney donor