Big Rise In Cornea Donation In Forth Valley

Cornea donation in Forth Valley has doubled over the past year, thanks to an innovative scheme devised by an NHS Forth Valley Emergency Department doctor. Each member of staff in the Department has now been issued with a prompt card, which acts as an aide memoire of the process of approaching a family, and the criteria for tissue donation.

The size of a credit card, it tucks into the back of staff identification badges and was devised by NHS Forth Valley Clinical Development Fellow Dr Susan Macmillan, as part of a Quality Improvement Project to increase the rate of tissue donation from the Emergency Department at Forth Valley Royal Hospital.

Tissues that can be donated after death include corneas, heart valves, skin and tendons.  The gift of sight is life changing for recipients and donated heart valves, which are often transplanted into children, can be lifesaving.  Skin is used to dress the wounds of patients who have been severely burned and donated tendons can be used to restore function and improve the quality of life for patients.

According to Dr Macmillan there is a shortage of both corneas and heart valves across the UK. She explained: “When a patient passes away in the Department it is very important that we find out if they had expressed a wish in life to be a donor either to their family or by joining the Organ Donor Register.  Honouring a patient’s wish to be a donor is ensuring that we are providing patient centred care even at the end of life.”

The increase in tissue donation is the result of a two year project which has also included Forth Valley Royal Hospital Emergency Department’s first ever Tissue Donation Week with daily facts read out at handovers, specialist guest speakers, an information display in the staff room, teaching sessions with all levels of medical and nursing staff and themed baking. The event was also promoted on social media, leading other hospitals to show an interest in the new prompt cards.

In addition, Dr Macmillan is working with the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service to develop materials which can be used in other Emergency Departments across Scotland.