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Northern Ireland at bottom of the UK table for cornea donations

By Lisa Smyth

Northern Ireland has the lowest number of corneas donated for transplant in the UK, new research has found.

It is thought a lack of proper facilities here could be the reason why Northern Ireland lags behind when it comes to helping restore sight through organ donation.

A study carried out by a team at the University of Ulster (UU) has found significant variation across the UK in the number of organs donated for transplant.

More studies are needed into why this happens before any new law for presumed consent is introduced in the UK, the experts said.

Health Minister Edwin Poots is considering the possibility of introducing presumed consent in Northern Ireland as a way to drive up the number of organs donated and help save lives.

This would mean people would have to opt out of donating organs - although families could still overrule donation in the event of a loved one's death.

The UU researchers looked at organs transplanted after the owner's death, using data from NHS Blood and Transplant for all four UK countries for the period 1990 to 2009.

They found that since the organ donor register was first launched in 1994, Wales has "consistently outperformed" other parts of the UK in terms of the percentage of population registered, with Scotland in second position, England third and Northern Ireland last.

Donation rates in Northern Ireland are the second highest - despite a lower proportion of people on the register than Scotland or England - with the province achieving rates higher than the UK average in 13 of those years.

A spokeswoman for NHS Blood and Transplant said: "Variations in organ donation rates and numbers do occur naturally, according to when and where people die."


There are 292 people here waiting for a transplant. On average adults wait 184 days for a heart and 519 days for a lung, while children wait an average of 93 days for a heart.

To sign up to the NHS Organ Donor Register, text SAVE to 84118, telephone 03001232 323 or go to

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