Within the UK, there is currently a transplant shortage of approximately 500 corneas each year. Since corneal transplant is a sight-saving procedure, corneal donation (CD) can be empowering for end of life patients who are otherwise unable to donate their organs. Within our organisation, it was felt that more could be done to promote CD.
To achieve this, we invited a specialist team from Moorfields Eye Hospital to train and educate hospice staff on the process of CD. Following this, changes were implemented on the initial patient assessments to facilitate conversations with patients, including a guide for both staff and patients on the process of CD. Staff were also afforded the opportunity to observe the corneal retrieval process to build confidence during discussions with patients.
Prior to our intervention it was unclear what proportion of our patients were engaged in a conversation regarding CD, with only one donation occurring in the preceding five years up to November 2017. Between November 2017 and February 2018, CD was discussed with 93 of the 106 patients admitted to the inpatient unit. Four of these patients were referred to Moorfields, resulting in two donations. Reasons for non-donation following referral were (i) contraindication for donation and (ii) a change in the decision to donate following discussions with next of kin.
These preliminary results demonstrate that our intervention has been successful, and data will continue to be collected to confirm this. Guidance on CD will now be covered in the induction process for new staff to ensure consistency in approaching CD with patients and their relatives. Future aims include expanding this project into our community teams. To facilitate this, CD champions will be nominated to raise the awareness of CD, ensure that patients’ wishes are addressed, and maintain momentum on raising the profile and benefits of CD.
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