A UK-wide challenge is being launched today to add one million more "lifesavers" to the NHS Organ Donor Register during the next 12 months, bringing hope to thousands.

While a record 2,867 life-giving transplants took place last year, tragically 443 people died while waiting due to the critical shortage of donors.

Students, NHS staff and families of organ donors and recipients from around the UK will converge on London's Trafalgar Square to create a colourful spectacle to start the challenge.

Six hundred people wearing red, blue and white bodysuits in the distinctive organ donation campaign colours will be choreographed to form the number ten in a large red heart to signify the 10th anniversary of the NHS Organ Donor Register and then rearrange to create the figure 1,000,000, setting the UK-wide challenge.

Each year almost 3,000 people are given a new lease of life through an organ transplant, due to the generosity of donors and their families. But with more than 7,000 people in the UK needing a transplant to save, or dramatically improve their lives, there is an urgent need for more donors.

Sue Sutherland, UK Transplant Chief Executive, said: "In this 10th anniversary year, we want to encourage an extra one million people to think about organ donation, talk about it and sign up.

"The gift of life is the most precious we can give. Transplants save and transform lives, and bereaved families have told us they gain comfort from knowing that their loss has helped someone else to live. But it can be extraordinarily difficult for relatives to make a decision about donation if they are unsure of their loved one's wishes.

"We know that nine out ten people support organ donation in principle but that only two out of ten have got around to recording their wishes on the Register.

"We'd also appeal to anyone just carrying a donor card to take this opportunity to sign up too - cards can easily get lost which means your good intentions may not be put into practice. The more people who join the register, the more people stand to benefit in the future."

The Organ Donor Register (ODR), a confidential, computerised database, was launched in 1994 following a successful campaign by the Cox family, from the West Midlands.

Twenty-four-year-old Peter Cox had discussed with his family his wish to donate his organs before his untimely death from a brain tumour. But although patients waiting for a transplant were listed on a central NHS computer, the Coxes found there was no equivalent register for potential donors.

With the help of their daughter Christine, the family gained the government's attention, and following extensive consultation and co-ordination the register was launched on 6 October, 1994.

Sue Sutherland added: "Joining the NHS Organ Donor Register sends out a huge message of support to the thousands of people whose lives depend on the generosity of others.

"We would like to say a big thank you to the 11.6 million who have already pledged their wishes by joining the Register, and encourage everyone else to consider joining them."

Anyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by telephoning the Organ Donor Line on 0845 60 60 400 or by visiting wwwtransplant

Issued on behalf of UK Transplant by Sinclair Mason PR (0870 606 0960).

Contact Justin McKeown (0771 554 5973) or Paul Thomas (0797 425 1032) for further information.

Email justinsinclairmason or paultsinclairmason

UK Transplant press office is also available on 0117 975 7475 or 975 7477.


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