Living Donation and Coronavirus COVID-19 Latest Information and FAQs.
COVID-19 has had a huge impact on all areas of life, and organ donation and transplantation including living donation have been significantly affected since March 2020.
Although the situation is now much more settled, it remains unpredictable through different waves of COVID-19.
We’ve gathered some answers to commonly asked questions about living donation in the context of COVID-19 and Coronavirus. If you have a question that isn’t covered here then please let us know and we will try to find answers for you. We appreciate this has been, and remains, 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.
- How had COVID-19 impacted living donation?
At the height of the initial outbreak, all units across the UK suspended living donation. The health and safety of donors was paramount in making these decisions. It took some time for living donation to be introduced back into many units, but all the living donor units have reopened and, for the most part, almost normal service has resumed. However, it has been taking time for teams to clear the backlog of transplants and assessments that were already planned and the situation may change again if we experience further waves. Decisions continue to be taken on an individual basis in relation to the safety of the donor, recipient (if there is one identified) and local situations in terms of both levels of COVID-19 within units and of local resources available.
A up-to-date list of centres and their current status (open or closed) for deceased and living donation can still be found here. This is being kept up to date with the latest information as things change, so is the best source of up to date information.
- 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 will be able to advise you on the current situation in your centre. Please be aware that many living donor coordinators may be redeployed to carry out other duties during waves of COVID, and may be required to do so in any further waves, so they may not be in a position to respond to enquiries in the ways we might hope and 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 a matching run. What is happening?
Unfortunately the April and July 2020 matching runs were both cancelled. The October 2020 matching run did proceed and identified a large number of transplants. The January 2021 matching run was also suspended to allow the matches generated in October to proceed as a priority with the reduced capacity currently available. All other 2021 matching runs proceeded as normal. Again, it is taking some time to clear the backlog, but transplant centres have been working exceptionally hard to carry out transplants when possible and whenever it is considered safe to do so.
- 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 in light of COVID-19. 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. 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. 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. Now, more than ever, your contribution will make a big difference. You can 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 please be aware that you still may not receive a response as quickly as normal during this time. 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 proceed with living donation until the risk is considered to be as low as possible. All transplant centres have procedures to ensure that living donation is performed in the safest possible 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, may be asked to completely isolate for up to 14 days prior to donation for the foreseeable future so you may need to consider how this works with your personal circumstances. As a precaution, you may also be asked to self-isolate post donation in case you have to return to hospital unexpectedly after surgery.
- 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 contact the living donor team in your unit to discuss this with them in more detail. Every potential organ donor is being tested for COVID-19 prior to donation.
- 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 regularly 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 the latter two links are 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.