CHARITY leaders have urged the Scottish Government to "drop its opposition" to an opt-out transplant system after new figures showed the country has the worst organ donation rate in the UK.
Despite an increase in eligible donors in Scotland, actual donations fell by 10% on the previous year’s figures.
The country registered 18.4 deceased organ donors per million population last year, compared with 26.2 in Northern Ireland, 23.7 in Wales and 19.6 in England.
In the 12 months to March this year, there were 98 donors in Scotland, a 7.5% drop from 106 in the previous year.
The stats also show that the number of families saying no to donation has increased by 7% in Scotland. The country has the second highest rate in the UK.
Charities believe the refusal rate could help explain why Scotland has the highest registration rate in the UK - at 41% - but the lowest donation rate.
The figures, from the Organ Donation and Transplantation Activity Report 2014/15, show that across the UK there was a fall of 5% in the number of people whose lives have been saved or improved by organ transplant.
In Scotland there were nearly twice as many people (550) waiting for a transplant as the number of transplants performed at 300.
British Heart Foundation Scotland said the figures backed calls for Scotland to follow Wales and move towards a 'soft' opt-out transplant system.
This means that donation would take place unless patients asked to be removed from the register.
Glasgow MSP Anne McTaggart is driving forward a bill calling for the change on the back of the Evening Times' Opt for Life campaign.
Charities leaders believe the family refusal rate would drop under an opt-out system because the views of loved ones are more likely to be known. The system also places more emphasis on the rights of the individual. Families are asked if they know of any objections rather than if they agree to donation.
Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive at the British Heart Foundation, said: “Tragically, these figures show that the number of available organs is outstripped by the number of patients waiting for a lifeline.
“For many critically ill heart patients, a transplant can offer the best chance of long term survival but there is a desperate shortage of registered donors.
“That’s why the BHF supports the introduction of a ‘soft opt out’ system and Anne McTaggart MSP’s Bill, currently going through the Scottish Parliament, where it’s assumed that someone is happy to donate unless they, or their family, say otherwise.
“We’re calling on the Scottish Government to drop their opposition and back Anne McTaggart’s Bill.
"Scotland has a rich history of leading public health in the UK, however from 1 December, Wales will implement the opt-out system that we hope Scotland and the rest of the UK will follow.”
At the end of March 2015, there were 6,943 patients on the transplant waiting list with a further 3,375 temporarily suspended from the list, because they were too ill to survive the operation.
There are also concerns that the number of useable organs is dropping because donors are older and less fit. A quarter of organs are now taken from obese patients compared with one in eight a decade ago while 33 per cent of donors are now 60 or older, compared with just 17 per cent in 2005.
The NHS Blood and Transplant service is calling for everyone in the UK to discuss organ donation with their family so that they are aware of their wishes.
To register to donate go to www.organdonationscotland.org/optin