DORSET residents are being urged to support organ donation as the number of people awaiting a lifesaving heart transplant rises 24 per cent this New Year.

In Dorset, there are currently five people on the heart transplant waiting list, with 62 people from the county being recorded on the UK Transplant Registry as having received a heart-only transplant.

On a national scale, there are currently 298 people on the waiting list for a heart transplant, compared to 240 people this time last year.

NHS Blood and Transplant is urging people to tell their families that they wish to donate to help with the deadly shortage of organs.

For most patients on the waiting list, all other medical options have been exhausted, meaning a donated organ is their only hope.

Since last year, 31 people across the country have died whilst on the waiting list for a heart transplant.

The Department of Health recently launched a consultation into an 'opt out' system of organ donation for England.

Under the proposed system, people will be a donor unless they specify that they do not want to donate.

Sally Johnson, NHS Blood and Transplant Director of organ donation and transplantation, said: "Hundreds of people are spending New Year waiting for a call that might never come.

"Their families will be spending the festive period living with fear and uncertainty.

"We desperately need more people in Dorset to agree to donation to help with the number of people waiting for hearts and organs of every kind.

"Whatever the outcome of the Opt Out consultation, if you support organ donation, please act today.

"Tell your family you want to donate and join the NHS Organ Donor Register."

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the UK's first heart transplant, and nearly 7,000 people have received the ultimate gift since the first operation on May, 3 1968.

Heart transplants are still relatively uncommon, with around 200 operations a year.

Visit to find out more and sign up to the Organ Donor Register.