The Welsh Government continues to press on with its misguided proposal to change the organ donation system in Wales from one based on opting-in to one based on opting-out. This action is causing real distress in the Dep't of Health, and amongst all the people involved in the donation system that I have discussed it with. It will cause great damage to the integrity of the National Assembly for Wales itself. It leaves me and people who agree with me about this issue wanting to reverse devolution of health back to Westminster! This policy is going to go badly wrong and its very vulnerable people who will be paying the price.
Lets look at just one aspect of this in this post. Fundamental to the policy change is that everyone in Wales is required to know about it for it to be legal. So must everybody who moves into Wales. The requirement under the European Convention on Human Rights is that individuals are fully aware of the need to consent or object, and be fully aware of the consequences. The people of Britain know that we have an opt-in system. Over the decades, billions have gone into promoting it. The cost of instilling knowledge of the change into the population of Wales (as well as those moving into Wales) is in my view unachievable, and it is one I believe the Assembly Gov't has seriously underestimated.
In a recent Assembly Health Committee Meeting, Ministers were questioned about the mere £2.9 million pounds sidelined to implement this policy. This is peanuts - and very small peanuts at that. The previous Assembly Health Minister, Lesley Griffiths, the Minister has claimed that the figure is appropriate and that the she reached that conclusion based on the campaign to raise the awareness of the smoking ban. These are completely different issues. The smoking ban attracted national media attention, was discussed in every pub and club, on every shop floor and at every dinner table. The change to organ donation is a subtle and complex change to a law covering a highly emotive subject that will undoubtedly leave many in our communities with no idea what the law is. What really bothers me is that I really don't think the Assembly Gov't cares. It just wants to push the law through - to hell with the consequences. Never felt more disappointed that I lost my seat in the Assembly. Rosemary Butler would have her work cut out controlling me when ever this issue cropped up.
£2.9 million pounds will fail miserably to inform the population of Wales of this important change - won't even scratch the surface. Done a few sums of my own to demonstrate lack of realism. Recently ITV ran a brilliant week long campaign ‘Heart to heart’ to promote organ donation. It resulted in around 120,000 people signing up to the opt-in register - a fantastic achievement. I asked ITV how much it would’ve cost to produce and broadcast the campaign - what was the value of the promotion. Answer was, without exaggeration, ‘you simply cannot put a cost on it’. But I have tried - on the basis that a 30 second advert at prime-time costs £51,000. A two hour programme at this rate would cost almost £12.5 million - though I suppose there might be a quantity discount.. In addition to the two hour programme, there were dozens of national news bulletins, features on Daybreak, on This Morning, on Loose Women and a 30 minute programme focusing on organ donation for viewers in Wales. We're talking £100 million plus - which tells me the cost of an effective campaign is completely unachievable
One problem those of us who oppose this misguided change is that the Welsh Gov't has invested heavily in it politically. They cannot back down. They will be looking for ways to justify what they are doing. One hope is that a new Health Minister has been appointed, Mark Drakeford, who I'm told is a very sharp cookie. I know he's been receiving evidence about issues like the shocking disinformation that was included in the consultation document. I was copied in. If he's as good as I'm told he is, he might just find a way of stopping the madness before it goes further. I really do hope so.