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“The Irish healthcare system remains open to opportunities for all-island collaborations in relation to organ transplant services. Discussions to date have been exploratory in nature and are examining the potential benefits for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland of any such collaborations,” an Executive spokesperson told MI.
According to June 2015 meeting minutes of the National Organ Donation and Transplantation Advisory Group (NODTAG), obtained by MI under Freedom of Information legislation, there is “potential to explore the close proximity of Ireland’s transplant centres with the Northern Ireland population, who currently rely on mainland UK for transplant, with the exception of kidney transplant”. The August meeting minutes reported that ODTI Director Prof Jim Egan had met with Prof James Neuburger of NHSBT, with no definite outcomes on the option of organ sharing. “Ireland is open to procuring in NI for NI use,” stated the minutes.
NHSBT has confirmed to MI that “very informal preliminary discussions” have taken place. The spokesperson noted that citizens of the UK and Republic of Ireland who are listed for a highly-urgent liver transplant have access to livers donated in either the UK or Ireland.
On whether discussions had been hindered or paused against the background of the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership, the NHSBT spokesperson made no comment.
Irish Kidney Association (IKA) Chief Executive Mr Mark Murphy said there is no doubt that if organs were shared on an all-Ireland basis, patients in both jurisdictions would receive more transplants.
Last year, there were 153 kidney transplants (120 deceased donors; 33 living donors) carried out in the Republic.
Donor Awareness Week will take place from 2-9 April.