Tissue donation saving lives in Wigan

The number of posthumous tissue donations to Wigan’s hospitals has increased by more than 3,000 per cent in five years.
Gail Brown and Anita BakerGail Brown and Anita Baker
Gail Brown and Anita Baker

In 2014 WWL received just four but the borough trust is now accepting around 10 per month.

Many different types of tissue can be donated after death from skin and tendons to bone, heart valves and eyes.

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A heart valve donation, for example, can help save the lives of children born with heart defects and adults with damaged valves.

As well as saving lives the donations can change lives as donated corneas can restore sight to people with problems caused by eye disease, injury or birth defects.

A donor donating multiple tissues can save and improve the lives of as many as 50 people.

The increase in donations is due, in large part, to the work of the trust’s bereavement nurses.

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The work to increase the number of donations started when WWL’s first specialist bereavement nurse Gail Brown started the bereavement and donor nurse service in 2014.

“Initially, focus was placed on educating both staff and the public on the importance of tissue donations which led to an increase in the following 18 months,” said Gail.

“However the team weren’t content with the increase and looked towards a project that would lead to the number of donations seen today.”

A new policy was implemented that an automated referral would be sent to NHS Blood and Transplant once a patient had died and this partnership working between the bereavement nurses, WWL’s IT team, mortuary team and staff at NHS Blood and Transplant has led to the huge success of the project.

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“Most people are eligible for tissue donation as the donations can take place up to 48 hours after death,” adds Gail.

“The tissues are processed and stored in such a way that there is little chance of the recipient’s body rejecting the donation.”

The decision to donate ultimately lies with the individual’s next of kin when they are approached by the NHS Blood and Transplant team.

Gail said; “I think it’s amazing that somebody who is in the depths of grief can consider and is willing to donate.

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“It is such a selfless act that can make a massive difference to so many people’s lives.”

Helen Gillan, General Manager of NHS Blood and Transplant Tissue and Eye Services, said: “We’re incredibly grateful to all the donors and their families who have agreed to tissue donation. Donating tissue can dramatically improve the quality of life for others.

“Almost anyone can be considered as a tissue donor. We urge people to tell their families that they would like to transform lives through tissue donation.”