Coronavirus: NHS transplant service ‘may be forced to shut’ due to pandemic

The UK’s organ transplant network could be forced to shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, a health body has warned.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which manages transplants and the National Blood Service, said the system is struggling under the pressure of the Covid-19 outbreak. Professor John Forsyth, medical director for transplant and organ donation at NHSBT, said other countries had already reached the point where transplants were no longer possible.

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Professor Forsyth fears it is just a matter of days or weeks before the UK reaches the same point. “When I hear from other countries who have been at the centre of this Covid pandemic, they have got to the point where no transplant is possible in certain regions at all,” he told the BBC.

“We may get to that point, and we may get to that point in the next days or weeks.

“But we are working very hard to keep organ donation and transplant open for as long as possible, accepting the safety of our patients is paramount.”

NHSBT says increased pressure on intensive care beds during the outbreak is one factor impacting the system.

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However, health experts say there is also a risk to transplant patients, whose immune systems need the best chance of accepting new organs.

Since the outbreak began in the UK, the number of transplants taking place has dropped considerably, according to NHSBT figures.

The figures show that just nine transplants have taken place since the beginning of April, compared with about 80 this time last year.

There are currently over 5,000 people in the UK waiting for a transplant, according to NHSBT.

NHSBT has also been urging the public to continue donating blood during the pandemic .

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The organisation says it needs around 135,000 new donors every year to ensure it has the right mix of blood groups to meet patient needs.

It is safe to donate blood during the Covid-19 outbreak, the NHS says.

“We need people who are fit and healthy to keep donating as normal during the coronavirus outbreak,” a spokesperson for NHSBT said.

“Coronaviruses are a family of viruses – there is no evidence of any type of coronavirus being transmitted through blood donation .”