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Study finds variations in UK organ donation rates

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There are “striking” geographical variations in the numbers of people who donate kidneys after they die, a new study has found.

Mapping out a picture of kidney donation across the UK, researchers found that some regions have half the rates of kidney donation than the best performing places.

The study, published in the British Journal of Anaesthesia, found that Glasgow has the lowest donation rates and Cardiff has the highest.

In England alone, Manchester has the lowest donation rate with 55% fewer deceased donors than Cambridge - which topped the list.

Around 6,000 people are currently on the waiting list for a kidney transplant in the UK. In 2012/13, 373 people died while waiting for a kidney transplant.

Two thirds of transplanted kidneys are from deceased donors. Kidneys from a certain type of donor are offered in the first instance to patients in the same area.

“Therefore, variations in regional donation rates identified in this research indicate that patients on waiting lists will increasingly be affected by the level of donation rates in their locality,” the authors said.

Researchers from Cambridge University and NHS Blood and Transplant found that of 27,482 patients who died in critical care between April 2010 and December 2011, 1,528, or 5.5%, became kidney donors.

But they found “significant variations” from the average rate.

In Glasgow and Manchester there were “significantly lower” donation rates, with 3.2% and 4.5% respectively.

At the other end of the spectrum Cardiff and Cambridge had significantly higher donation rates - of 7.5% and 7%.

Report author Dominic Summers, from the Department of Surgery at the University of Cambridge, said: “We did not expect to find such marked differences in organ donation rates between different regions in the UK after already taking into account the various factors known to influence the number of organ donors.

“Our findings indicate that despite huge progress in organ donation rates over the last five years, there is considerable scope to increase these rates further and improve more lives through kidney transplantation.”

Paul Murphy, national clinical lead for organ donation at NHS Blood and Transplant, added: “Every potential donor is precious and can save lives, but if they are not identified and referred then they, and their family, are denied the opportunity to be an organ donor and to transform the lives of others after their death.”

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