Major UK faiths commit to promote new organ donation strategy

Leaders from all the UK’s major faiths have jointly launched a new action plan to boost organ donation rates among religious communities.

The Faith Engagement and Organ Donation Action Plan was developed by religious leaders in partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant. It will see a range of initiatives employed to tackle faith-related barriers to organ donation and urge followers to actively support donation.

The plan, which is authored by Gurch Randhawa, Professor of Diversity in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, is the culmination of several months of work to bring together ideas from different religious perspectives.

The process started with a multi-faith summit, which was held by NHS Blood and Transplant in May 2013.

The summit, which was thought to be the first of its kind, saw a 40-strong delegation of religious leaders come together to explore barriers to organ donation within their communities and ways to increase donation rates.

Prof Randhawa and NHS Blood and Transplant then worked with the leaders to record, develop and refine their suggestions, before presenting them in the Faith Engagement and Organ Donation Action Plan.

In the new action plan the faith leaders make a commitment to work with NHSBT and take on roles as spokespeople and ambassadors, both generally and around specific organ donation campaigns.

The plan also includes a review of the languages that NHSBT’s leaflets are translated into to reflect the UK’s increasingly diverse population.

It also includes proposals for NHSBT to provide information and training to healthcare chaplains and other faith leaders to include definition and diagnosis of death, personal stories and examples of best practice.

It is hoped this will help tackle a common area of concern and misunderstanding among some religions.

The plan also includes a commitment by local faith communities, whether in the home, in schools, at work or in places of worship, to regularly initiate discussion around organ donation.

The plan also includes proposals for NHSBT’s nationwide network of specialist nurses in organ donation (SNODs), clinical leads for organ donation (CLODs) and hospital-based organ donation committees to connect with faith leaders in their areas.

Further faith-specific training will also be provided, along with encouragement for SNODs and CLODs to share best practice in working with religious communities.

The Faith Action Plan is specifically aimed at increasing organ donation rates among faith communities, which comprise followers from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds.  

However, it is particularly hoped that the plan will increase donation rates among black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people in the UK, given the urgent need for more organ donors from these communities. 1,212 people donated their organs after death in the UK during 2012/13, but just 56 of those were from BAME communities.  

Prof Randhawa said: “It is so important for members of the public to discuss organ donation with their family and I am delighted that faith communities are supporting this endeavour.”

NHSBT’s Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, Sally Johnson, said: “Religious beliefs can play a major role in an individual’s decision to donate organs. We have been working closely with many of the leading faith groups in the UK to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation, particularly within black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities. Right now there is an urgent need to encourage more people from BAME communities to join the NHS Organ Donor Register and share their donation decision with their loved ones.  

“We welcome publication of the Faith Engagement and Organ Donation Action Plan as a major contribution to our collaboration to increase donation from all members of society.”

Kirit Modi and Orin Lewis, co-chairs of the National BAME Transplant Alliance, said: “NBTA is pleased that a strategic plan to engage with faith communities to increase organ donation and transplantation has been published by NHSBT.

“NBTA welcomes the Faith Action Plan so long as sufficient funding is allocated for its implementation. NBTA will, of course, continue to work in partnership with NHSBT and others and support the implementation of the Plan.”