Last October, Kidney Care UK expressed concerns to the Department of Health around the potential impact on the commencement of the Opt-Out system were a Health Minister not to be in place for a prolonged period. Sadly, those concerns have been realised and while the Department point to the required secondary legislation being passed by a restored Assembly, the prospects for such a return remain uncertain.
Bringing Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom is a vital final piece in the jigsaw of Organ Donation reform and we are delighted by the widespread political support for Opt-Out across all our local political parties.
Kidney Care UK’s policy Director Fiona Loud has described the announcement from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland that the move to an Opt-Out Organ Donation system is to be delayed as "bitterly disappointing".
Fiona said: "Since its passage at the Northern Ireland Assembly last February, and Royal Assent, with a ‘go live’ date originally set for this spring, there was considerable hope that this new legislation would herald a new dawn for organ donation in Northern Ireland.
“However, we are deeply concerned at the announcement that these plans have now effectively been placed on hold. This will be met with considerable disappointment across the kidney patient and wider transplant community across Northern Ireland who have worked tirelessly to see this legislation cross the line.
“Delays to this important and widely supported law, where it will be considered that you agree to donate your organs and tissue when you die, unless you have confirmed otherwise, or are from one of the excluded groups, can only lead to confusion and missed opportunities.
“In response to the Department's announcement we have already written to express our willingness to continue to work alongside them to seek solutions at the earlier opportunity, including exploring how passage of the required secondary legislation, which is the cause of the delay, could take place at Westminster.
“As the Secretary of State has passed legislation to postpone an Assembly Election, surely he can pass legislation, supported by all the parties, which is centred on saving and transforming lives!”
Also commenting Jo-Anne Dobson, who is Kidney Care UK’s Northern Ireland Ambassador and, as an MLA, introduced the original Opt-Out Bill to the Northern Ireland Assembly, said: “We cannot let the kidney patient community down – so many people had renewed hope with the new legislation coming this spring.
“The move to an Opt-Out system for Northern Ireland has taken almost ten years, since I first began the process at the Assembly in 2013, and the announcement of this further delay is deeply disappointing.
“I urge our local Members of Parliament to help us to seek a solution where the required secondary legislation, which is the reason for the delay, could be passed at Westminster.
“Kidney Care UK has been extremely active in our support and promotion of the new law and were delighted to work alongside the Department, then Health Minister Robin Swann and others in achieving its passage last February."