A RINGWOOD-based national charity has issued a warning after the number of people seeking liver transplants rose by 17 per cent in a single year.

In National Transplant Week, the British Liver Trust is expressing concern that soaring rates of liver disease – most of which is preventable – mean there will not be enough donors to meet demand.

Currently 370 patients are registered as needing a liver transplant. Two people die each week while they wait for an organ to become available.

Alison Rogers, chief executive of the trust, warned: “This figure is set to increase further unless we see the upward mortality trend of liver disease fall.

“With only 100 extra liver transplants available in five years and more people being affected by liver disease each year, we are very concerned.

“Increasing rates of liver disease are not just driving demand for transplants; they are driving demand for all liver services and pushing up NHS costs.”

Of particular concern is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, closely linked to obesity, which has increased by 360 per cent in the last two years.

Alcoholic cirrhosis, the leading cause of liver disease, has increased by a fifth in the last five years and led to 130 transplants last year alone.

Since 2006, there has also been at least a 10 per cent rise in liver transplants for causes such as hepatitis C, liver cancer, hepatic artery thrombosis and polycystic disease.

Liver disease is the only one of the five biggest causes of death to show a steady increase, killing more than 16,000 people in 2008. If trends continue, deaths from liver disease will double in 20 years.

The trust is calling for better treatment services and diagnosis rates; minimum alcohol unit prices; better awareness and recognition of fatty liver; testing for viral hepatitis and universal vaccination against hepatitis B.