Kidney transplants plummeted during pandemic, figures show

There are 4,600 people, including nearly 100 children, waiting for a kidney transplant.

10 March 2022

The number of kidney transplants fell significantly last year, new figures show.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) said that there was a dramatic 32% fall in kidney transplants last year compared to pre-pandemic.

Almost 4,600 people are currently waiting for a kidney donation – including 98 children.

And NHSBT said that the figure is expected to rise drastically as transplant care recovers from the impacts of the pandemic.

Some patients were suspended from the transplant waiting list during the pandemic because the medication needed to stop the body rejecting a new organ – immunosuppressant drugs – can leave people vulnerable to the effects of an infection, such as Covid-19.

This meant that some were removed from the list temporarily due to the risks of being immuno-suppressed during the pandemic compared to the ability to continue managing their condition and postponing the surgery.

Officials believe that once waiting lists are fully restored then around 7,000 people will be on the organ transplant waiting list – with around three quarters of these in need of a new kidney.

The latest figures from NHSBT, released to mark World Kidney Day, suggest that around 1,100 fewer patients received a kidney transplant in 2020/21, compared to the year before.

The number of “living” kidney donations – where a person donates one of their kidneys to someone in need – fell by 60% in 2020/21, compared to 2019/20.

And the number of deceased donor transplants was down 22%.

Anthony Clarkson, director of organ and tissue donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant, says: “We know the pandemic is a very worrying time for kidney patients as thousands of people, including children, wait for a life-changing kidney transplant.

“We’re pleased that transplant activity is now recovering and we’re doing everything we can to enable as many transplants as possible to take place as quickly as possible.

“Sadly patients are facing a longer wait and more people need a kidney transplant, so it is more important than ever to share your organ donation decision with your family to help others after your death.

“And if anyone is willing to consider living kidney donation, they can find out more on our website.”

Maria Caulfield, minister for patient safety, said: “This World Kidney Day it is vital communities talk openly about organ donation and the importance of making this life-saving choice.

“We need more people from all communities, especially black, Asian and other ethnic minority backgrounds, to discuss organ donation, and make the life-saving choice to become a living kidney donor.”

– For more information, or to register your organ donation decision, visit: www.organdonation.nhs.uk or call 0300 123 23 23.

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