Steps To Increase Organ Transplants Across Scotland

Innovative technology and increasing living kidney donation are central to a new five-year plan to increase numbers of organ transplants in Scotland.

Ahead of the new opt out system for donors on March 26, the Donation and Transplantation Plan for Scotland: 2021-26 outlines further steps to help those in need of operations, including the use of new technology to allow more organs to be used for transplant.

There are many factors which affect whether donation can go ahead and only around 1% of people die in circumstances where that is possible. The plan, developed with the Scottish Donation and Transplant Group (SDTG), also makes recommendations to ensure Scotland can increase the numbers of people who donate tissue after they die, and to help improve the care given to patients in the years after their transplant.

Public Health Minister Mairi Gougeon said:

This new action plan sets out a clear ambition of increasing organ and tissue donation and transplantation to enable more of those people who desperately need a transplant to access one. 
“Over the last 10 years a great deal of progress has been made. However, there is still a lot more to do. Too many people are still tragically dying waiting for a transplant and too many others are still waiting too long for their transplant.
“The opt out law change is one of many initiatives underway to help deliver improvements and the measures set out in this plan will contribute further.
“The Scottish Government is confident the package of measures included in the plan – both new recommendations and initiatives already started – will enable us to continue to save and improve the lives of those on the waiting list by increasing the numbers of transplants over the next five years.”

Co-chairs of the Scottish Donation and Transplant Group, Mr John Casey, consultant transplant surgeon, and Dr Iain Macleod, consultant in intensive care medicine, said:

The new action plan will build on the progress made in recent years to improve transplantation and organ donation in Scotland. It contains key elements which will improve the lives and experiences of patients and, as such, we very much welcome its introduction.”


Legislation to introduce an opt out system of organ and tissue donation for deceased donors will come into effect on 26 March 2021.

Under the new law, if an adult does not opt out of donation they will be deemed to have authorised donation for the purposes of transplantation. This is subject to the safeguards in the new law which seek to ensure that donation will not go ahead where it would be against the person’s wishes.

The Donation and Transplantation Plan for Scotland: 2021-2026 aims to build on the improvements in donation and transplantation started following the UK Organ Donation Taskforce report in 2008 and continued through the recommendations set out in A Donation and Transplantation Plan for Scotland, 2013-2020.  It covers both living and deceased donation and transplantation of  tissue and organs for adults and children.

The plan covers recommendations in seven priority areas:

  • implementation and evaluation of the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019
  • increasing organ transplantation, including through novel technologies
  • reducing missed referrals and other missed opportunities for deceased organ and tissue donation
  • increasing living donation and reducing the wait for a kidney transplant, with a focus on living donation being the first option patients should consider
  • improving transplant recipient support and aftercare
  • research and innovation
  • public health improvement

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