COVID-19 is clearly having an impact on all areas of life, and organ donation and transplantation have been significantly impacted.
Although the situation is changing on a weekly (and sometimes daily) basis, we’ve gathered some answers to commonly asked questions about living donation in the context of COVID-19. If you have a question that isn’t covered here then please let us know and we will do our best to find answers for you. We appreciate this is a particularly anxious time for those going through the assessment process or who were already approved to donate, but those who have already donated may also have some concerns. Please remember we are here to support you, so please do get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org if you feel we might be able to help.
- I am a living kidney donor. Do I need to shield?
Confirmed advice from NHS Blood and Transplant and the British Transplantation Society is that living donors do not need to shield because of their donation as this does not put you at greater risk. However, some donors with underlying health conditions may be advised to shield and many of you will be living with people who are shielding. We are aware that some people have received advice to shield in error. If you are at all uncertain, we suggest you contact your GP or transplant unit for advice. Solid organ transplant recipients are advised to shield, however, and should follow the latest government advice: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19
- How is COVID-19 impacting living donation?
At the height of the outbreak, all units across the UK suspended living donation. The health and safety of donors was paramount in making these decisions. It is likely that it will take some time for living donation to be introduced back into many units, but there are already signs of recovery in others and the living donor programme is beginning again. Decisions will be taken on an individual basis in relation to the donor, recipient (if there is one identified) and local situations in terms of both levels of COVID-19 within units and local resources.
A up-to-date list of centres and their current status (open or closed) for deceased and living donation can be found here.
- I was already going through the assessment process for living donation when the COVID-19 pandemic began. What is the situation now in terms of continuing with assessment?
Your local team should have advised you that currently living donation was not proceeding and they will be back in touch when the situation changes in your centre. Please be aware that many living donor coordinators are currently carrying out other duties so may not be in a position to respond to enquiries in the ways we might expect. Please be patient if you can. If you have a very urgent query that you feel cannot wait and have been unable to get in touch with your living donor coordinator team, you can use email@example.com for further advice and support.
- I should have been going into the April or July 2020 matching runs. What is happening?
Unfortunately the April and July matching runs have both been cancelled. At the time of writing the October matching run remains under review and will proceed if it is safe and appropriate to do so. Any additional risk to donors due to COVID-19 will be explained to donors and decisions to proceed or not will be taken in consultation with potential donors at this time. This time period is likely to vary between units.
- I have already begun the assessment process but I’m now worried about donating?
It is completely understandable that some potential donors will now feel more worried or concerned about donating. Please be assured that you can withdraw from the donation at any point up to your surgery if you change your mind. Care teams will understand and support you in your decision, whatever you decide and will be initiating a conversation with you about whether you wish to proceed. The team will be able to tell you about the arrangements that have been made to make your donation as safe as possible in the context of COVID-19. If you feel unsure at any time contact your living donor coordinator so that you can discuss your concerns and any additional risks that COVID-19 presents to help you come to a decision that is right for you. As always, if you wish to have a more informal chat about living donation, Give a Kidney remains here to support you, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
- I’d like to put myself forward as a non-directed living kidney donor. What should I do?
Thank you for considering donation. Kidneys from non-directed living donors make a huge contribution and are a very welcome part of the organ donation programme and we hope you will consider donation once the living donation programme resumes in your unit. Unfortunately, due to the current situation units are not assessing potential living donors at present. You can still fill in the expression of interest form on NHS Blood and Transplant Website here: https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/become-a-living-donor/living-kidney-donation/ but, because many living donation staff have been redeployed, please be aware that you may not receive a response from units during this time while the living donor programme is suspended. Meanwhile we suggest that you read through the content on our Give A Kidney website and access the living donation pages of NHSBT’s site here: www.organdonation.nhs.uk/become-a-living-donor/ for educational films and resources. We can also put you in touch with a previous non-directed living kidney donor who has been through the experience if you would like to talk to someone with lived experience of donation. Please just get in touch with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Does the potential presence of COVID-19 in hospitals put me at greater risk as a donor/potential donor?
The major and most significant risks of donation will be discussed with all potential donors before donation, and a discussion about the particular risks of COVID-19 to you as an individual will form part of this discussion. Please be assured that your teams will not be proceeding with living donation until the risk is considered to be as low as possible and all transplant centres are developing ‘clean’ facilities and pathways to ensure that living donation is performed in the safest environment. As always, donation is a very personal decision and should you decide not to proceed with donation, at whatever stage you are in the process, your care team will fully accept and support that decision. Even if you have already been matched you can still decide not to proceed, or you can choose to proceed at a later date.
In addition, donors and everyone in their household, are being asked to completely isolate for 14 days prior to donation.
- I have had COVID-19 and recovered. Can I still be considered as a living donor?
In principle, there is no reason why you should not be considered as a living donor if you have had COVID-19, depending upon your general health and well-being. Every person will be assessed on an individual basis so the best thing to do is to wait until the programme is re-established and contact the living donor team in your unit to discuss this with them in more detail.
- Where can I find out more about the impact of COVID-19 on transplantation and organ donation?
If you’d like to keep up to date with the rapidly-changing picture in transplantation, you can find information from NHSBT that is kept up to date on a daily basis here: www.odt.nhs.uk/deceased-donation/covid-19-advice-for-clinicians/ and also at www.bts.org.uk/information-resources/covid-19-information/.
However, please note, that this information is aimed at clinicians rather than patients. Kidney care UK provide excellent resources for patients with kidney disease on a range of topics, including transplantation at www.kidneycareuk.org/news-and-campaigns/coronavirus-advice/
- I’m still concerned. Where can I find support?
We understand this is a worrying time for donors and potential donors. If you have a concern or query about living kidney donation please do get in touch with us via email at email@example.com and we will be here to support you or to direct you to other available support. If you have a query that is very specific to your own situation, your local care team are best-placed to advise you, but please do be aware that they may take longer than usual to respond. If you have any more general concerns about your health, please contact your GP.