Documents considered by the Committee on 12 January 2011 - European Scrutiny Committee Contents

15 Organ donation and transplantation



COM(08) 819

+ ADDs 1-2

Commission Communication: Action Plan on Organ Donation and Transplantation (2009-15): Strengthened Cooperation between Member States

Commission staff working documents: impact assessment and summary of assessment

Legal base
Document originated8 December 2008
Deposited in Parliament15 December 2008
Basis of considerationMinister's letter of 22 December 2010
Previous Committee ReportHC 19-iii (2008-09), chapter 5 (14 January 2009); HC 19-viii (2008-09), chapter 6 (25 February 2009); HC 19-xiv (2008-09), chapter 5 (22 April 2009); HC 5-xv (2009-10), chapter 2 (24 March 2010) and HC 428-i (2010-11), chapter 13 (8 September 2010)
To be discussed in CouncilNot applicable
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionCleared


15.1 In 2007, the Commission published a Communication on organ donation and transplantation which suggested ways in which the EU and Member States might increase the supply of organs and improve the quality and safety of transplantation.[67] The Commission advocated the preparation of an Action Plan to encourage coordination and cooperation as well as EU legislation to establish basic principles of safety and quality.

15.2 In December 2008, the Commission published a further Communication setting out an Action Plan which identified ten "priority actions" to help Member States address three main challenges:

  • increasing the number of organ donors;
  • making systems for the transplantation of organs more efficient and accessible; and
  • improving the quality and safety of organ donation and transplantation.

15.3 At the same time, the Commission proposed a Directive establishing rules intended to ensure high standards of quality and safety for human organs for transplantation. The Commission considered that common EU-wide standards were necessary to protect donors and recipients from infection, increase trust in the systems for donation and transplantation and facilitate the cross-border exchange of organs. The Commission noted, for example, that there were more than 56,000 people in the EU on transplant waiting lists and that the exchange of organs between Member States (especially those participating in "Eurotransplant")[68] was common.

Previous scrutiny of the Action Plan

15.4 The ten "priority actions" proposed by the Commission in its six-year Action Plan were:

  • to promote the role of transplant donor coordinators in every hospital where there is potential for organ donation;
  • to promote Quality Improvement Programmes in every hospital where there is potential for organ donation;
  • to exchange best practice on organ donation by living donors and support an EU register of living donors;
  • to improve the knowledge and communication skills of medical staff and patients' organisations about organ donation;
  • to facilitate the identification of organ donors across the EU and cross-border donation;
  • to improve organisational arrangements so as to encourage and facilitate organ donation and transplantation;
  • to promote EU-wide agreements on, for example, the mobility within the EU of transplant patients who are citizens of the Member States;
  • to facilitate the exchange of organs between national authorities;
  • to improve the evaluation of the results of transplants; and
  • to promote a common accreditation system for organ donation and transplant programmes.

15.5 The Commission said that each Member State should decide for itself what needed to be done to achieve these objectives. It suggested that every Member State should use the Action Plan as a framework to develop its own Set of Priority Actions which would provide the basis for discussion and exchanges of expertise and best practice with other Member States. The Action Plan includes provision for a mid-term review in 2012.

15.6 Our predecessors held the draft Directive and the Action Plan under scrutiny, raised a number of issues (largely concerning the draft Directive) and requested regular reports on the progress of negotiations. In June, the Government informed us that the Council and the European Parliament had reached a First Reading deal on the draft Directive which met the vast majority of the UK's negotiating aims. We considered that it was reasonable, in the circumstances, for the Government to have given its agreement to the adoption of the Directive and cleared it from scrutiny but asked for a further progress report on the Action Plan.

The Minister's letter of 22 December 2010

15.7 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Anne Milton) tells us that steady progress is being made to implement the Action Plan. Since its inception, in 2009, three Plenary meetings have been held and national experts have agreed their initial work priorities. The main focus, during the first two years of the Action Plan, has been to develop a common set of indicators (drawing on data already collected in most Member States) covering aspects of donation and transplantation. The indicators will provide the basis for monitoring progress across Member States, sharing good practice and identifying possible improvements.

15.8 The Minister says that the Commission is developing a "manual of good practice for Donor Transplant Coordinators" which will incorporate successful models established in a number of Member States, including the UK, and help those with less developed transplant programmes. She adds:

"The UK is one of ten or so Member States with more developed transplant programmes that make up the technical steering group. This group meets around four times a year and helps drive much of the work programme."

15.9 Looking ahead, the Minister says that future work streams will consider:

  • how to encourage and support organ donation by living donors;
  • how to increase rates of organ donation by encouraging collaboration between emergency medicine, intensive care and donor transplant coordinators; and
  • how to extend the criteria for organ donation.

15.10 She adds that the UK has a particular interest in the role of emergency medicine and organ donation, and that her Department has recently held a workshop with intensive care clinicians to consider whether more could be done to encourage donation in this area. The Minister offers to provide a further update on the Action Plan after the next plenary session in February/March.


15.11 The Minister has provided a useful update on progress so far in implementing the Action Plan. We think that this is an area where the exchange of information and best practice between Member States, particularly on ways to increase the number of organ donors, can result in tangible benefits. We think that the mid-term review in 2012 provides a suitable opportunity to evaluate whether the ten priority actions indentified in the Action Plan are adequate to meet the challenges of increasing the supply of organs and improving the quality and safety of organ donation and transplantation across the EU. We look forward to considering the impact and benefits of the Action plan at that stage, but are now content to clear it from scrutiny.

67   (28686) 9834/07: see HC 41-xxvii (2006-07), chapter 6 (27 June 2007). Back

68   Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg the Netherlands and Slovenia participate in Eurotransplant and exchange about 3,300 organs (or 20% of all organs transplanted) a year. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 27 January 2011