Leaders from the UK's major faiths have launched a new strategy to encourage members of religious communities to donate their organs.
In partnership with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), religious leaders have developed the Faith Engagement and Organ Donation Plan, which involves a range of initiatives to urge followers to actively support donation schemes.
Earlier in the year, some forty religious leaders met for a multi-faith summit which examined the barriers to organ donation within faith communities and analysed possible ways to increase donation rates.
Gurch Randhawa, Professor of Diversity in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire, then worked with NHSBT to develop and refine the suggestions, before authoring the plan.
The new initiative includes proposals for NHSBT to provide information and training to healthcare chaplains and faith leaders, and for faith communities to regularly and actively initiate discussion around organ donation. In addition, the plan proposes a commitment for faith leaders to work with NHSBT as ambassadors for the campaign.
It also suggests that NHSBT's nationwide network of specialist nurses and organ donation committees connect with faith leaders in their areas.
Professor Randhawa said she is "delighted" with the support she has received from faith communities, saying: "It is so important for members of the public to discuss organ donation with their family."
It is hoped that the plan will especially increase donation rates among black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK. Out of the 1,212 people who donated their organs after death in the UK during 2012/13, just 56 of those were from these communities.
NHSBT's Director of Organ Donation and Transplantation, Sally Johnson, said: "Religious beliefs can play a major role in an individual's decision to donate organs. We have been working closely with many of the leading faith groups in the UK to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation.
"We welcome publication of the Faith Engagement and Organ Donation Action Plan as a major contribution to our collaboration to increase donation from all members of society."