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Discarded Human Organs

Volume 687: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2021

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

I seek leave to propose that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration: discarded human organs.

I welcome the fact that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), is in her place to hear this. Live and deceased donor kidney transplants in Northern Ireland were paused in October last year due to covid pressures, and I understand that there is a similar picture across most of the 23 transplant units in Great Britain. Yesterday, however, I learned that a number of donor kidneys have been discarded. I was horrified. How can this House persuade the health authorities to recommence kidney donor transplant operations, to utilise public and private unused operating theatre space and to stop the scandal of discarding viable transplant organs developing?

Discarding viable organs has a disheartening impact on donors, let alone on patients. Discarding takes away from the exceptional work of our medical staff. Last year in Northern Ireland, kidney transplant surgeons operating in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust were able to utilise trust theatres and private hospital theatres at night and carried out a record number of kidney transplants. This remarkable, life-changing and life-enhancing work should and could be allowed to continue.

Covid, as we know, can attack vital organs. Those with kidney failure are vulnerable to harsher health outcomes if they get covid, and according to data I have been made aware of, a transplant gives better recovery outcomes. I have been told that, in all likelihood, more people in the UK could require kidney transplants post covid, so to be discarding usable donor kidneys is a shocking waste and a potential scandal.

An unintended consequence is that a pause in transplant operations now could lead to a shortage of viable organs in the future. We have a duty to futureproof demand by ensuring that kidney transplants continue now.

Currently, if a viable donor kidney is offered to Belfast, it is routinely refused. It is then offered to one of the other 23 units in Great Britain. If not used there, it is discarded. The Health Secretary needs to spell out the precise numbers of discarded kidneys, hearts, pancreases, livers and lungs across each region of the United Kingdom, and he needs to spell out the percentage increase in discarded organs since 2019. I know that 24 patients have been denied a kidney transplant in Northern Ireland since October 2020. It can only be assumed that the number of denied operations is far greater across the whole of the United Kingdom. Can the Government confirm that number urgently?

Will the Belfast trust and other management bodies in Great Britain now grant the opening of kidney transplant operations? Will they consider using the South West Acute Hospital? Will they agree to use private theatre facilities, if required, to expedite needed procedures? I salute the expert and wonderful work that we have in this field. Untie the hands of these experts and let them get on with this life-saving work. Let us halt this scandal.

The hon. Gentleman asks leave to propose a debate on this specific and important matter of discarded human organs, which he has brought urgently to the House. I have to tell him that Mr Speaker is not satisfied that the matter raised is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24, and therefore will not grant time for a debate, but that does not mean that Mr Speaker has not taken this matter seriously. I am very pleased to see that the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Jo Churchill), is on the Treasury Bench and has listened to every word of the hon. Gentleman’s application. I am quite sure—the Minister is indicating to me her assent—that she will carefully consider ways in which the matter can be taken forward both in this House and in policy terms. I thank the hon. Gentleman for bringing this urgent and very disturbing matter to the attention of the House and of the Government.