This year’s organ donation week, launched by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) on Monday, centres on case studies in a deliberate attempt to provoke discussion within families and has already led to record numbers signing up to the online donor register.
A film titled ‘Hugs’ features Freddie McDonald, four, and his brother Louie, seven, from Ossett, West Yorkshire.
The two brothers are shown playing together and hugging each other, with a voice-over by Louie in which he explains how his little brother’s life was saved by a liver transplant in 2015.
He declares his love for his little brother in the moving film, and says: "Freddie gives the best hugs."
The video is being promoted on social media channels, along with a series of other short films in which bereaved families talk about the loss of relatives and dealing with the issue of organ donation.
Key messages are contained in slogans such as: "Your family won’t know how you feel about organ donation unless you talk about it," and "A few words can make an extraordinary difference."
The emphasis on getting people to talk about the issue was prompted by concerns over the numbers of people who refuse to allow the organs of their deceased loved ones to be used – either because they do not know what their wishes were, or because they did not know they were on the donor register.
Only 47 per cent of families agree to donation going ahead if they are unaware of their loved one’s decision to be a donor. This rises to almost 91 per cent when the decision to be an organ donor is known, according to NHSBT.
More than three families a week are saying no to organ donation because they don't know what their relative wanted. This means around 460 lifesaving organ transplants are being missed each year.
Andi Ttofa, head of organ donation campaigns for NHSBT, explained how this year’s campaign is different to ones in the past: "This is the first time we are running a paid-for social media campaign specifically with a conversation message in England. Our paid-for activity over the last few years has been more focused on getting people to sign up."
He added: "To reach people who have never considered donation, we realised we needed to emotionally engage them. That’s why our main paid-social-media asset is a lovely video of two brothers, one of whom had a lifesaving transplant, enjoying more time and hugs together."
The campaign is already making an impact, according to Ttofa: "Even through the main aim is to get people talking, we also had over 7,500 people sign up online to the NHS Organ Donor Register through our website yesterday – one of our highest days for online sign-ups."
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