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Nurses back opt-out organ donor system

The Royal College of Nursing has changed its position to support an opt-out system.

Leading nurses have announced their support for an opt-out organ donation system.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced in October that the Government will shift towards an opt-out organ donation system in England, which presumes people give consent for their organs and tissues to be donated in the event of their death unless they state otherwise.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) previously supported an opt-in system.

But following a new survey of members, the RCN’s professional nursing committee decided to change the College’s position.

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Nurses support organ donation opt-out law (PA)

The survey of 7,700 nurses, which took place earlier this year, found that 71% supported a move to the opt-out system.

But the RCN said that steps must be taken to ensure the system works properly.

It said that a move to such a system should come with resourcing, evaluation and clear conditions attached to how it operates – these would include limiting the opt-out to adults, putting in place awareness and education programmes in advance of any changes and engaging with families in the process.

The RCN also called on governments to increase investment in specialist nurses who work in the field.

Just a quarter (25%) of nurses said they felt confident enough to speak about organ donation to patients and their families.

Our members from across the UK have given overwhelming support to an opt-out Janet Davies, Royal College of Nursing chief executive

The survey also found that only 10% of nursing staff believe their patients have given much thought to donating organs and tissues after death.

And 89% of RCN members believe that not enough people donate their organs and tissue.

Janet Davies, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “When people still die because suitable organ donors cannot be found, nursing staff agreed it was time to reopen the debate.

“Our members from across the UK have given overwhelming support to an opt-out to give countless people awaiting transplants a fighting chance, as long as clear conditions are applied.

“Where individuals feel strongly, for whatever reason, they must be supported in opting out. Where governments pursue an opt-out anywhere in the UK, we will ensure our members’ views are heard and will call for the system to be communicated clearly with the public and health professionals.”

Figures from NHS Blood and Transplant show that nearly 500 people died last year while on the waiting list, or being taken off the list after becoming too unwell for transplant.

An opt-out system has been operating in Wales since December 2015, and in June last year the Scottish Government announced plans to move to a soft opt-out system.

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