Cookies Policy

We use cookies on this website to enable you to get the best experience. If you continue without changing your settings, we'll assume that you are happy to receive cookies. To find out more about what we use cookies for, or to find out how to change your settings, please read our cookie policy.

Home News More than 50,000 people alive today thanks to organ donation and transplantation

More than 50,000 people alive today thanks to organ donation and transplantation


The number of people currently known to be alive thanks to organ transplants has broken 50,000 for the first time.

This increase is revealed in this year’s UK Transplant Activity Report 2016/17, published today by NHS Blood and Transplant.

There are now 50,300 people alive today thanks to organ transplants – more than enough to fill Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge and almost enough to fill Liverpool’s Anfield stadium. (1)

This includes:

  • Kidney transplants – 36,300 people
  • Pancreas transplants – 1,900 people
  • Cardiothoracic (heart or lung or combined heart/lung) transplants – 3,900 people
  • Liver transplants – 9,800 people
  • Intestinal transplants - 1,000 people

The milestone figure has been reached thanks to record levels of public support for organ donation and improvements in survival rates.

The number of people receiving a transplant in a single year has reached the record figure of 4,753, an increase of 20% in the last five years. The increase means that nearly 800 more people a year have their lives or improved by transplants than they did five years ago. (2)

The number of people on the NHS Organ Donor Register also reached a record number, 23.6 million, up by 4.9 million over five years. Now 36% of the UK’s population is on the NHS Organ Donor Register, compared to 30% five years ago. (3)

Survival rates continue to improve. An adult receiving the most common type of kidney transplant during the early 1990s had a 66% chance it would still be functioning after five years. Today’s report shows adults who receiving the same type of transplant five years ago have an 87% chance their kidney is still functioning today. (4)

Many more recipients are now able to enjoy fuller lives, including starting families of their own.

Eleanor Brinkley, aged 8, from Rugby, had a lifesaving liver transplant last summer. She was born with the rare and incurable genetic disorder PFIC-2 (Progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis type 2).

Mum Claire, 45, said: “We had a horrendous time on the waiting list.

“You know your child will die without a major operation, then you are told there might not ever be an operation because there are not enough donors.

“She needed tube feeding because her body wasn’t absorbing nutrients. I was told she didn’t have long left with her poorly liver.

“We got the call at 7am in the morning. I sobbed and begged the transplant co-ordinator ‘please let this be the one’. At around 6pm that evening, Eleanor went into theatre.

“Someone amazing gave us all of this and we will never forget them. Because of her wonderful donor, I got to see her first day at junior school, I may see her graduate, celebrate her wedding day, and become a mother herself.”

Despite the record breaking public commitment to donation, the overall shortage of donated organs remains. The report reveals 457 people died last year while on the active transplant waiting list. A further 875 people were removed from the list, mainly because they were too ill to undergo transplant surgery. Many of these patients will have died shortly after removal from the list. There are still around 6,400 people currently waiting for a transplant.

Sally Johnson, Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “More people than ever are agreeing to organ donation and that is saving more lives than ever. This is an immense achievement. It’s amazing to picture all the people now alive today thanks to organ donation and think of all the families and children who have grown up thanks to donors.

“We’re seeing more and more people committing to donation and the good results of our close work with hospitals. Our specialist nurses in organ donation are now almost always involved in discussions with families over organ donation.

“However there is still a long way to go. Around three people still die a day in need of a transplant. Every one of those people who die could be a mother or a father, a daughter or a son, who might be alive today.

“Families tell us donation is a source of pride that helps them in their grieving process. We don’t want anyone to miss the opportunity to save lives. Please join the NHS Organ Donor Register. It only takes two minutes.”

Health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Organ donation transforms and saves lives – these numbers show excellent progress and are a testament to the brilliant work of NHS Blood and Transplant and all those involved. Now we need more organ donors to come forward so everyone requiring a transplant stands the best chance of receiving one.”

In 2013, the UK Governments and NHS Blood and Transplant launched a seven year organ donation and transplantation strategy Taking Organ Transplantation to 2020. To view or download the strategy go to:

The full Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2016/17 can be viewed at:

Please join the NHS Organ Donor Register at



Press Release Notes

(1) The total approximate number of patients with a functioning transplant on 31 May 2017. This reflects information held on the UK transplant registry database and excludes those patients who are known to be lost to follow-up. If a patient has had a multi-organ transplant (e.g. a kidney and a pancreas) then they would be included in both the kidney and pancreas numbers of the table. This is why the individual organ numbers do not approximately add up to the total.

(2) The 2016/17 Transplant Activity Report shows the number of transplants reached 4,753 during 2016/17.  This is a 20% increase compared to the figure of 3,960 during 2011/12, and it is also a 3.6% year on year increase.

(3) This is an increase of 1.1m people on the NHS Organ Donor Register in one year, and an increase of 4.9m over the past five years.

(4) Adult recipient graft survival after first kidney only transplant from a donor after brain death 1991-1993 was 66% (Source: 2004-5 Transplant Activity Report). Adult recipient graft survival after first kidney only transplant from a donor after brain death 2009-2011 was 87% (Source: 2016-17 Transplant Activity Report.)