Becoming a Donor

How do I volunteer?

Volunteer is the key word – this must be something that you chose to do, nobody else can volunteer you! The assessment process is thorough as we need to make absolutely sure that you are suitable.

The first step is contacting the live donor co-ordinators at the Belfast City Hospital. Pauline Haslett and Elaine Smyth are very experienced in the whole process from start to finish (by July 2014 they had supervised over 400 people who have gone through the assessment process) and will guide you every step of the way.

Once you make contact you will asked a few basic questions and then sent an information pack. This includes information about living kidney donation, a DVD, and a simple health questionnaire.

If after reading and considering the information you are happy to be considered then please complete and return the health questionnaire to the living donor co-ordinators.

Please see below contact details for the Co-ordinators

Living Donor Co-ordinators

Elaine Smyth – 02895049437
Level 11
Belfast City Hospital
Lisburn Road Belfast

Pauline Haslett – 02895048293
Level 11
Belfast City Hospital
Lisburn Road Belfast


Your questionnaire will be reviewed by the co-ordinators and the medical consultant and there are three possible outcomes. We will:

  1. arrange for you to enter into the 1-day assessment process
  2. ask you or your doctor for further information, or arrange to see you for initial tests
  3. tell you if unfortunately you are unsuitable to be a live kidney donor

Why might further information be required?

If you have previously had a significant illness, you will not necessarily be excluded from being a living donor but typically we would like to have further information about what has happened to you. We seek your permission to look at your electronic medical records and contact your GP if necessary.

Why might I need to have initial tests?

Sometimes this is required based on the information you have given to us about your health, and a face-to-face conversation can also be very helpful both for you to talk about the process and for us to get to know you so we can advise and guide as to what is best for you.

The most common reason for initial blood tests is if there are several people who wish to donate to one particular person. The tests can tell us who will be the best based on the blood group and the matching. Please click here to read more about matching.

Determining your blood group and tissue match is also important if you do not wish to consider the living donor pool or “swap” scheme. Until 2006 if you were the wrong blood group or tissue type for your friend / relative then you were unable to donate a kidney, there were no options. The pool scheme allows for you to give your kidney to someone else needing a transplant and at the same time your friend / relative gets a living donor kidney that matches them from somewhere else in the UK. You will never be giving a kidney unless your friend / relative is getting a kidney. Occasionally some people do not wish to be a part of this scheme and therefore we need to check if they are definitely a match for their friend / relative before arranging additional investigations.

An increasing number of people are willing to give a kidney to a complete stranger, appreciating the huge benefits that this can bring to an individual and their families. This amazing group of people are known as non-directed altruistic donors (i.e. they do not direct who their kidney goes to). If you wish to be considered for this then we will always arrange to meet you first to go through the process in more detail before embarking on all the investigations.

Why might I be unsuitable?

There are several reasons why someone may not be suitable to give away a kidney. However, you do not have to be perfect to be a donor! Some people can think that they will not be suitable when actually we would be happy to consider them. For example there is no upper age limit for a living kidney donor, though clearly those that are older generally need to have been in very good health. It is normal to successfully have a family after donation and we have a number of (very cute) babies born to mothers who previously gave the gift of life by kidney donation. It is best to contact us if you are interested in being a living kidney donor and we will be able to advise you if you would be suitable or not.

Will I be asked to wait before I have the additional tests?

There may be an appropriate delay before you have the 1-day assessment process if we need additional information or blood tests. Other times it may be too early for you to have other investigations depending on the person that you are hope to give a kidney too. The key factors are:

  1. their level of kidney function
  2. the rate at which their kidney function is declining
  3. if they require additional assessment or treatment to make sure they are fit enough to undergo a transplant operation

We will always check about these things before we start any of the assessment process. The ideal time for someone to get a kidney is just before they need a transplant. Sometimes it is difficult to know exactly when this will be, but most of the time we can estimate this reasonably well. The aim is to have a live donor ready for when the time comes, and not too soon or we will have to repeat some of the tests!

Ulitmately if you’re thinking about donating a kidney, contact us. This does not put you under any obligation to proceed and we will be happy to give you more information and advice.