Wales On Sunday - - NEWS - TALIA SHADWELL Re­porter news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

THE wait­ing list for a heart trans­plant has nearly tre­bled in a decade, the Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion has re­vealed, as it pleads for peo­ple listed as donors to dis­cuss their de­ci­sion with loved ones.

NHS Blood and Trans­plant ser­vice fig­ures show the number of peo­ple on the wait­ing list for a new heart in the UK has in­creased by 162% since 2008.

The Bri­tish Heart Foun­da­tion (BHF) is en­cour­ag­ing po­ten­tial donors to make their wishes known to their next of kin, say­ing while most peo­ple sup­port it many fam­i­lies refuse do­na­tions be­cause they are un­sure of their loved one’s wishes.

Fri­day marked the two-year an­niver­sary of the in­tro­duc­tion of the so­called “pre­sumed con­sent” model com­ing into force in Wales.

The shift means un­less they have opted out peo­ple in Wales will be pre­sumed to have agreed for their or­gans to be do­nated after death.

In mak­ing the change Wales be­came the first coun­try in the UK to adopt an “opt-out” sys­tem.

Ear­lier this year Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn told del­e­gates at his party’s an­nual con­fer­ence that if he be­came Prime Min­is­ter the same mea­sure would be in­tro­duced in Eng­land.

The BHF cam­paign marks the 50th an­niver­sary of the world’s first heart trans­plant. On De­cem­ber 3, 1967, South African car­diac sur­geon Chris­ti­aan Barnard trans­planted the heart of a woman who died fol­low­ing a car ac­ci­dent to a gro­cer suf­fer­ing from heart dis­ease.

The re­cip­i­ent sur­vived 18 days but later suc­cumbed to pneu­mo­nia due to the im­muno-sup­pres­sant drugs he was tak­ing.

To­day such trans­plants are rou­tine. Pa­tients like Vicky Small of Bournemouth des­per­ately want to get the surgery – but the long wait­ing list sets her in a race against time.

The 43-year-old, who has been di­ag­nosed with re­stric­tive car­diomy­opa­thy, feared she would not get a new heart due to the wait­ing list.

“It’s so sad. And it’s also really fright­en­ing to think that I might never be lucky enough to re­ceive a new heart be­cause peo­ple are not hav­ing these un­com­fort­able, but vi­tal, con­ver­sa­tions with their loved ones.

“I am in heart fail­ure and I really need a new heart. Please, let your loved ones know if you want to do­nate your or­gans. It’s in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant you ‘have the chat’ – be­fore it’s too late.”

The BHF said many peo­ple be­lieved all they had to do to be­come an or­gan donor after death was to join the NHS regis­ter or carry their donor card – yet they may not know their fam­i­lies are still en­ti­tled to bar the pro­ce­dure.

De­spite sur­veys show­ing eight in 10 of all adults in Eng­land say­ing they sup­port or­gan do­na­tion, last year the NHS asked 3,144 fam­i­lies to agree to it, but 1,172 of them de­clined.

NHS or­gan do­na­tion and trans­plan­ta­tion as­so­ciate di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor John Forsyth said around 200 peo­ple re­ceived heart trans­plants in the UK an­nu­ally – the wait­ing list num­bers in­creased partly due to an age­ing pop­u­la­tion and the in­creas­ing risk of heart dis­ease.

“In the last 10 years, with a huge amount of work from many peo­ple both within the NHS and out­side of the NHS, the number of peo­ple do­nat­ing their or­gans in death has reached the record number of 1,413,” Prof Forsyth said.

“There is still a se­vere short­age of do­nated or­gans of all kinds and far too many peo­ple die with­out ever re­ceiv­ing the trans­plant they need. Or­gan do­na­tion saves lives and we urge peo­ple to join the NHS Or­gan Donor Regis­ter and talk to their fam­i­lies about their de­ci­sion.”

BHF chief ex­ec­u­tive Si­mon Gille­spie said the surgery once con­sid­ered “laugh­ably risky” had de­vel­oped over the past 50 years to be­come so ad­vanced that hun­dreds of suc­cess­ful heart trans­plants are car­ried out in the UK every year.

“But this is not enough. We need to give those wait­ing for a new heart the best chance of ac­tu­ally re­ceiv­ing a healthy or­gan. This will only hap­pen if we start the con­ver­sa­tions with our loved ones so that, if the sit­u­a­tion arises, they will be able to hon­our our wishes and save a life.”

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