A new UK-wide strategy to increase organ donation levels is a brave and ambitious move that will give more people the chance of life-saving transplants, Northern Ireland's Heath minister said.
Edwin Poots has welcomed the launch of Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020.
The strategy was developed by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) in conjunction with all four UK health administrations. Among its objectives, the strategy aims to improve consent/authorisation rates to organ donation to above 80% from the current national rate of 57%.
It also aims to bring the UK deceased donor rate up to 26 per million of the population (pmp) from the current 19pmp and increase the number of patients receiving a transplant to 74pmp from 49pmp nationally.
"This is a brave and ambitious strategy that will give more people a realistic chance of receiving a life-saving or life-enhancing transplant," said Mr Poots.
"Despite recent success we know more can and must be done to address the shortage of donated organs across the UK.
"This strategy was developed by NHSBT in collaboration with my department, the other UK health departments and all those involved in organ donation and transplantation including professional bodies, patient groups, transplant surgeons and the wider health service."
The strategy was launched amid ongoing political moves in Northern Ireland to adopt a so-called opt-out transplant system, wherebv consent is presumed.
A private members' Bill proposing the legislative change has been launched while Mr Poots has initiated his own public consultation to gauge public opinion on such a move.
"I recently announced my intention to establish public attitudes towards organ donation and this work is now under way. Once the outcome of this work is known, which is expected to be later this year, I will decide on the next steps to increase organ donation in Northern Ireland," said the minister.