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OTA statement: Review of the Australian organ donation, retrieval and transplantation system

Article Date: 

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Organ and Tissue Authority (OTA) welcomes the Review of the Australian organ donation, retrieval and transplantation system Final Report which makes 57 recommendations for improving Australia’s health system to support the future growth and sustainability of donation and transplantation.

In April 2018 the Australian Government proposed an independent review of deceased organ donation, retrieval and transplantation to ensure the national health system has the capacity and capability to optimise donation opportunities and access to transplantation for more Australians.

The Review was agreed by the COAG Health Council and led by the Commonwealth Department of Health; with the Report to inform the development of a future national strategy. A committee of senior government officials from across all jurisdictions, including the OTA CEO, Lucinda Barry, will now consider the Report recommendations. 

The Report’s findings will help shape a national strategy to ensure Australia has the best systems in place to support retrieval and transplantation services, building on the success of the first decade of Australia’s national organ and tissue donation program. 

The OTA leads the national program in partnership with all states and territories and the DonateLife Network. Since the program began in 2009, organ donation has more than doubled and nearly twice as many organ transplant recipients.

The Review has found that increased donation activity has placed significant pressure on downstream retrieval and transplant services and the capacity of the health system.
The OTA will continue to work closely with all states and territories and looks forward to playing our part in helping to develop a successful long-term strategy to save and improve the lives of more Australians. 

There are a number of initiatives currently under way that support the recommendations in the Report:

  • In 2019 the Commonwealth provided $2.3 million to the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) to establish a National Indigenous Kidney Transplantation Taskforce (NIKTT), of which Lucinda Barry is a member. The Taskforce is responsible for driving the development and implementation of initiatives that target knowledge and service delivery gaps identified by the TSANZ Performance Report, Improving Access to and Outcomes of Kidney Transplantation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Australia. These initiatives aim to improve access to the kidney transplant waiting list and better post-transplant outcomes for Indigenous patients.
  • The OTA Board has recommended all Australians should be able to register on the Australian Organ Donor Register as organ and tissue donors when applying for or renewing their driver’s licence (currently only available in SA). The Commonwealth Department of Health has policy responsibility for this and is working with the relevant government departments to fully understand the implications of this proposal. 
  • OrganMatch is our national waitlisting, organ matching and allocation system. This state-of-the-art system went live in April 2019 replacing the ageing National Organ Matching Service (NOMS) that had been in place since 1999. OrganMatch is helping drive national clinical best practice and has been identified in the Report as the platform to drive further improvements. 

Review of the organ donation, retrieval and transplantation system – Final Report and an all-governments statement is available on the Department of Health website.

The Hon Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Health, Regional Communications and Local Government statement is available on the Department of Health website.

The Organ and Tissue Authority
The OTA works with states and territories, clinicians, eye and tissue banks, the community sector and the general public to deliver the Australian Government’s national program to improve organ and tissue donation outcomes in Australia.

The national program is based on international practice adapted to the Australian environment. The OTA is the national agency coordinating and funding a best-practice clinical donation system in hospitals and raising community awareness through consistent messaging with the aim of normalising donation in Australia.

The OTA leads the national program in collaboration with the broader DonateLife Network of state and territory medical directors, DonateLife agencies (one in each state and territory) and donation specialist nurses and doctors in hospitals. There are now 275 donation specialists and support staff covering 98 hospitals across Australia.

The OTA has overseen the implementation of best-practice standards and guidelines; donor family support; data collection, analysis and reporting to shape clinical best-practice research and education; and data transparency and accountability. 

The OTA acknowledges and is privileged to work with exceptional and dedicated people who are actively supporting donation and transplantation across Australia.