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20 Nov 2008 : Column 159WH—continued

I said in my opening remarks that new funding was available. That is £11 million in 2008-09 to support the implementation of the taskforce recommendations. Many
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of the financial disincentives that were in the system have been removed—I referred to that in my speech—and we are continuing that process. That includes reimbursement of costs associated with organ donation. I also referred to the efficiency of having electronic donor registration and an online system, which would speed up allocation.

I said that we were expanding the organ donation work force, that the Department of Health had a national clinical director for transplantation to drive forward the recommendations, that recruitment was under way to increase the number of national transplant co-ordinators by 146 per cent. and that 29 new appointments had already been made. I pointed out that we were arranging for there to be clinical donation champions and that they would have leave to bring forward changes at local level. I also talked about extra funding of £4.5 million for publicity aimed at getting more donors and more awareness of organ donation. We are making progress in relation to all the recommendations and our commitment is underlined by finance.

The hon. Member for Eddisbury also asked about the black and minority ethnic community and said that we needed to do more in that area. I agree. The national health service blood and transplant service is funding a two-year study now to examine the reasons why individuals make gifts and donations generally and how those findings can be used to increase the rates among the BME communities. There is no obvious barrier in terms of beliefs or ethics, but that study will enable us to make progress.

The national blood and transplant service has undergone a major restructuring in line with recommendations 1 and 2. As we have said, an executive director was in post as of 1 September. Currently, there is capacity within all transplant units to ensure that donated organs are not wasted. In the next five years, the Department will be working actively with national and local commissioners to expand the services. That is a great challenge, particularly in heart and lung transplant services. All the new donor co-ordinators and clinical champions are receiving training. That training includes major workshops that are already in place and making progress.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did not seek to intervene on, influence or steer the taskforce recommendations. All of us keep revisiting the subject of organ donation, for the obvious reasons stated today. The Prime Minister made it clear that he wished to see the debate start and he took great care not to prejudice the question. He has always made it clear that he recognises, as we all do, that this is a sensitive and complex issue, on which people have a wide range of views. Having set up the taskforce and asked it to address the issue and, like the rest of us, accepted that an expert opinion was necessary, he has willingly supported the way forward that has been outlined for us.

I might point out that there were significant amounts of Government funding for stem cell research and the excellent work in my home city of Bristol by a brilliant university. The hon. Member for Eddisbury will know this. The Department will award £1.4 billion to £1.7 billion over the next three years for research and development. That relates particularly to the transformational agenda and translating science into activity. I am delighted, having just seen Royal Assent given to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, that stem cell research is proving its great relevance.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston referred to the very important question of the bereaved relatives and how crucial that is to the success of donations. I do not disagree with her at all. There are very good signs in the health service that work is proceeding on that issue. I do not know whether she is aware, for instance, of the success achieved by a team in Bolton, who have increased donor rates sixfold in a year by embedding the discussion about being a donor in the end-of-life care pathway. They received a Nursing Times award for the “incredible service” that they provided. Their work shows that supporting families in such difficult times can help them with the decision. My hon. Friend also made points about brain stem death testing being normal practice. That is a key role for the clinical champions, and we intend to have one in every intensive care unit by 2009-10 for precisely those reasons.

With regard to any future votes, the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon—he always asks me about this and always gets the same answer—knows that that
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is above my pay grade, and should any discussion take place in the future, I am sure that his representations will be noted, but I am not in a position to predict what will happen.

In conclusion, we all recognise that we have a duty on behalf of the thousands facing an anxious wait and uncertain future on the transplant lists, and that means we have to keep all our options open, so the Department will monitor progress carefully. As I said at the beginning of the debate, if we do not achieve the outcomes that we and all Members participating in the debate are clearly looking for, we will all need to reconsider our approach, and that will have to include the possibility of legislation. For the moment, it is right that we place our trust in the experts, and focus all our attention on implementing their recommendations in full and closing the gap so that those waiting for the donation of organs or tissue receive them.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-two minutes past Four o’clock.

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