Organ Donation Law Change In England From Today 20 May 2020

Organ Donation Law Change In England From Today 20 May 2020

Further to LTB 269/2019 dated 1 May 2019, and CWU Conference policy to support the promotion of organ and blood donation, this is to inform Branches and Regions that the law around organ donation in England changes as of today 20 May 2020. This change is warmly welcomed by NHS Blood & Transplant (NHSBT) who are certain that the change will lead to more lives being saved through organ donation.

As a result of the law change, all adults in England will be considered to have agreed to be an organ donor when they die unless they have (a) recorded a decision not to donate or (b) have nominated someone to make a donation decision for them or (c) are in one of the excluded groups. Otherwise it will be considered that the individual has agreed to donate their organs. A new ‘opt out’ system for organ donation has been introduced as part of the change.

The excluded groups are:

  • people under 18
  • people who lack the capacity to understand the change
  • people who have lived in England for less than 12 months or who are not living in England voluntarily

In the new opt out system people still have a choice about whether or not to donate and can record their decision at any time – before or after the opt out system comes into effect.  Where donation is a possibility, families are always consulted to ensure NHSBT knows what the person who has died wanted to happen.

NHSBT have explained that the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on organ donation and transplantation in the UK.

The Government has advised that it is unlikely that donation will proceed under deemed consent during the current pandemic because people are distanced and communication between relevant parties is more challenging.

Therefore, while the NHS continues to deal with Coronavirus/COVID-19, where possible and supported by the local donor hospital, the NHS will continue to approach families about donation and will do so with their usual empathy and sensitivity. Where there isn’t a recorded or known decision, NHS will support families to make a decision on behalf of their loved one.

NHSBT are working closely with the wider NHS and already have plans in place to return vital organ donation and transplantation services to normal as soon as it is safe to do so.  Transplant centres are gearing up to re-open, or extend their service, in the next two weeks.

There are a number of myths and misconceptions around the opt out system and that’s why it is so important that NHSBT continue to educate and inform people about the law change, the choices available to them and the organ donation process.

Whilst NHSBT have had to reduce the intensity of their public information campaign over recent weeks due to COVID-19, they remain firmly committed to publicising the change in the law. They inform us that they are in the process of planning the next phase of the campaign, which will go live later this year.  In the meantime, there will be adverts on the radio and digital radio, and they will continue working with journalists to get stories in the media and posting informative content on their social channels. They have requested that supporting organisations including the CWU help in communicating the message to ensure as many people as possible are aware of the law change and understand the vitally important need for organ donation and the benefit from life-saving, life-transforming transplants. At the same time NHSBT seek to reassure people that it is still their choice whether or not to be an organ donor. People’s faith, beliefs and culture will continue to be respected.

What is organ and tissue donation? 

Organ and tissue donation is giving your organs and/or tissues to help save or improve the lives of others when you die. One organ donor can save or transform the lives of up to nine people. Tissue transplants can also significantly improve a person’s quality of life. This might be a cornea to help someone see again, a replacement heart valve to treat a heart defect, or skin to treat severe burns.

Why is the law around organ donation changing? 

Around three people die each day across the UK in need of an organ, because not enough organs are available for transplant. But only 1% of people die in circumstances that would allow them to donate. Most people support organ donation in principle and would be willing to donate their organs after their death. However, many people do not make this decision clear either by signing on to the NHS Organ Donor Register or telling their family. The change in law better reflects what most people want to happen and will help save and improve more lives.

Further information 

You can obtain further information on the NHSBT Website at:

NHSBT Animation Video link

Information Telephone Line.

Any member wishing to speak to somebody about their choices can call a dedicated line: 0300 303 2094


The NHSBT factsheet explains how the law around organ donation in England is changing, what you need to do, and the choices you can make. A copy is attached.

Other Parts of the UK

Wales: Similar legislation was introduced in December 2015.

Scotland: Similar Legislation will come into force in March 2021.

Northern Ireland: The current legislation for Northern Ireland is an ‘opt in’ to organ and tissue donation system, unlike the rest of the UK which has now changed. The Northern Ireland Assembly decided in 2016 not to proceed with any changes to the basis of consent for organ donation.

Yours sincerely

Dave Joyce
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer

LTB 262/20 – Organ Donation Law Change In England From Today 20 May 2020

Attachment – organ-donation-law-in-england-factsheet-updated-May 2020

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