New lung transplant scheme reduces waiting times

News -

New data from NHS Blood and Transplant has shown that a nationwide lung transplant scheme with urgent categories has dramatically reduced waiting times, including for people with cystic fibrosis.

The paper shows waiting times dropped from a median of 427 days to 292 days and the odds of being transplanted within six months increased by 41%.

From last year’s report from the Organ Utilisation Group, we know that at least one person dies every day waiting for an organ, and patient care and standards of performance across transplant centres can vary. 

The new national system for the most urgent cases follows the Hope for More campaign by Cystic Fibrosis Trust for a fairer organ donation system. The report bought together over 140 CF and transplant healthcare professionals as well as people with the condition, both pre- and post-transplant. It set out 12 recommendations, including introducing a national allocation system, giving patients the information needed to make informed decisions and improving standards of care to improve the prospects for people with CF.

It’s encouraging to see this scheme, following our Hope for More campaign for fairer organ donation, has reduced waiting times for urgent cases, including people with CF. Though there have been significant improvements in treatments for CF over the last few years, the median age of death is still just 33. Ensuring as many donated organs as possible are used to save the lives of people on the waiting list needs to remain a priority to ensure everyone with cystic fibrosis can have access to the best treatment and care.

David Ramsden, Chief Executive of Cystic Fibrosis Trust

Georgie Cooper running the Bath Half MarathonGeorgie Cooper received a lung transplant at Harefield Hospital in 2021 through the new 'urgent' waiting list. Diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at 2 years old, as a child she was always fairly healthy, but around the age of 18 Georgie’s health started to deteriorate and at the age of 20, she was told she had two years left to live.

“I was devastated. I don’t really know how I coped, but I had no other choice.

I had tried a few of the modulator therapies I couldn’t tolerate some, and by the time we found ones that worked it was too late – my lungs were too far gone. The modulators managed to help me get to my transplant, but I was basically permanently in hospital at the time.”

Georgie was put on the lung transplant waiting list and was on that list for just over two years. “I was on oxygen 24 hours a day, was in a wheelchair, and my mum was my full-time carer. A year after my transplant I climbed Snowden, and last year I ran the Bath Half Marathon, so it’s completely changed my life.

I think, I’ve been given a gift, I can’t waste it.”

This is a great example of how innovation can help cut waiting lists and improve patient care. I commend the NHS staff behind this effective change which has cut the time the average patient waits for a transplant by four months. I encourage everyone to register their organ donation decision - share it with your family so your loved ones can follow your wishes and save lives.

Health Minister Andrea Leadsom

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