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Landmark organ donation legislation in Wales sparks RCN call for training

Nurses will need training to help implement a landmark legal change on organ donation in Wales, the Royal College of Nursing has said.

Wales is to become the first country in the UK to introduce a “soft opt-out” system for organ donation, in an attempt to solve the long-standing problem of donor shortages.

The Human Transplantation Bill (Wales) was passed last week by the Welsh Assembly and is set to come into effect in 2015.

The new legislation will mean unless individuals have specifically “opted out” of being an organ donor when they die, their consent to donation will be deemed to have been given automatically. It will replace the current “opt-in” system.

The aim of the Bill is to increase the number of organs and tissues available for transplant. There are currently 226 people in Wales waiting for an organ transplant.

The introduction of an “opt-out” system has long been championed by the British Medical Association, but it appeared ministers considered it too politically controversial to take forward until now.

Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford said: “I expect the rest of the UK to be watching with great interest when the legislation is implemented in 2015.

“The new law will work by clarifying people’s wishes around the issue of organ donation and, in turn, increase the rate of consent to donation.

Martin Semple, associate director of professional practice at RCN Wales, said healthcare professionals would need training about the law change in order to adapt their practise.

He said: “There will be a need to ensure that health care professionals are educated about the legal change and enabled to develop skills to have supportive and helpful conversations with members of the public, patients and their families.”

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust and a former nurse, said he hoped the rest of the UK would follow Wales’ example.

He said: “Given that we have a shortage of organs and an increasing amount of liver disease, we really welcome the opt-out system in Wales.”

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