This week is Organ Donation Week, a week dedicated to raising the profile of organ donation and we wanted to shine a light on a lesser-known area of tissue donations, the cornea.

At Yeovil Hospital, we have a small team of Anatomical Pathology Technicians (ATPs) who as part of their jobs remove eye tissue from donors. Eye donation is a delicate procedure involving the corneas and is commonly known as a cornea transplant, which can give someone back their sight. 

Throughout the UK there are thousands of cornea transplants a year, making a huge difference to those who previously couldn’t see. The cornea is a small part of the eye made up of clear tissue that allows the light in so we can see. Donating corneas is one area of organ donation where almost anyone can be a donor.

Senior ATP Lyn Woodley said: “It is incredibly important that we get to do our part for those that want to give the greatest gift and it is something many do not realise we do within the Trust. It is one of the smallest parts of the body to donate but makes such a huge difference to someone’s life.”

Sadly, there is a national shortage of organ donations and eye donations are no exception. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, donation referrals with the Trust has dropped to as low as two for the year 19/20.

Senior ATP Alan Tunnicliffe said: “As a small Trust the team used to see around 10 referrals from the NHS Blood and Transport a year, but we are seeing a significant drop. This could be for many different reasons, but the most common we come across is that family do not know their relatives wishes.”

There is a small 24-hour window from when a donor can gift their eye to when they can be used. This is a very short time frame, especially when it is required by law to have the family’s permission to remove organs from a donor, even if the donor has not opted out.

Alan added: “Although it is a difficult conversation to have, it is so incredibly important to have it. So many lifesaving organs are not able to be gifted to adults or children in desperate need because families just don’t know their loved ones wishes.”

For more information and examples of how to approach the conversation, please follow the below link to the organ donation website here:  


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