A new online course to educate healthcare professionals about organ donation has been co-created by Professor Hannah Cock, Professor of Epilepsy and Medical Education and Consultant Neurologist at St George's, following her experience of her son, Alfie, being an organ donor in 2016 aged nine.


The international course – which is the first of its kind in the world – has been launched by St George's, University of London with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT).

Professor Cock recognised that what ultimately saved the lives of others was almost a missed opportunity and made her realise the importance of all healthcare professionals having a good understanding of organ donation.

In parallel, the UK Organ Donation Task Force recommended that all clinical staff involved in the treatment of potential organ donors should have training in the principles of organ donation.

An unexpected reunion occurred when Professor Cock discovered that the Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation, Gordon Turpie, who supported her and her family through the organ donation process, had since been appointed as the Practice Development Educator at NHSBT. Professor Cock, Gordon Turpie and other NHSBT colleagues worked together to create the course. 

The free course officially launched earlier this month, and is now near completion of the first run. It covers the basic principles of organ donation, legal and ethical issues including different consent models around the world, criteria for donation and for the diagnosis of death, as well as providing an overview of the process and support for families during and after organ donation.

It is aimed at healthcare professionals in training, as well as those in relevant professional roles wishing to update their knowledge, in particular those working in emergency and critical care settings, or as a starting point for those interested in pursuing careers in the organ donation field.

It may also be of interest to members of the public who may have been touched by or wish to improve their understanding of issues around organ donation.

Professor Cock said: "A wide range of learners have signed up, including people considering being donors, donor recipients, doctors, nurses, medical students and scientists, as well as health professionals already working in tissue and organ donation. The first set of learners came from countries including India, Colombia, Mexico, Nigeria, Kenya, Canada, Japan and South America, as well as the UK and Ireland."

She added: “It was a real honour and privilege to have worked with such knowledgeable and enthusiastic colleagues from NHSBT on this project, and in particular to have met up with Gordon again and share just how much his support meant to us when Alfie died. I can see that our learners are enjoying the course as much as I did in working on it.”

Gordon Turpie, Practice Development Specialist at NHS Blood and Transplant UK, said: "The course gives any healthcare professional an invaluable insight into why organ donation matters, gives clarity about their role in the process and answers any questions they may have”.

You can sign up to the course – Organ Donation: The essentials for healthcare professionals – via FutureLearn .

Photo credit: NHS Blood and Transplant UK