Increasing living kidney donation and using innovative technology are among the measures outlined in a five-year plan to increase the number of organ transplants.
The plan has been published ahead of the new opt-out system for donors which comes into effect on March 26.
If an adult does not opt out of donation they will be considered donors from that date, subject to safeguards which seek to ensure donation will not go ahead where it would be against the person’s wishes.
The Scottish Government said there are many factors involved which determine whether donation can go ahead and only around 1% of people die in circumstances where that is possible.
Its Donation and Transplantation Plan for Scotland: 2021-26 sets out steps to increase the number of organ transplants, makes recommendations to raise the number of people who donate tissue after they die, and bids to improve the care given to patients in the years after their transplant.
Public health minister Mairi Gougeon said: “This new action plan sets out a clear ambition of increasing organ and tissue donation and transplantation to enable more of those people who desperately need a transplant to access one.
“Over the last 10 years, a great deal of progress has been made. However there is still a lot more to do. Too many people are still tragically dying waiting for a transplant and too many others are still waiting too long for their transplant.
“The opt-out law change is one of many initiatives under way to help deliver improvements and the measures set out in this plan will contribute further.
“The Scottish Government is confident the package of measures included in the plan – both new recommendations and initiatives already started – will enable us to continue to save and improve the lives of those on the waiting list by increasing the numbers of transplants over the next five years.”
The plan recommends that renal units should be asked to make a living donor transplant the default option for a first transplant for patients needing a kidney transplant.
The report stresses it is “vitally important that no-one feels in any way pressured into becoming a living donor”, but adds it is legitimate that living donation should be the first option to be explored and encouraged before considering a deceased donor transplant.
It also recommends using novel technologies to increase the number of viable organs for transplantation.
The plan said transplant units need to continue working with all NHS boards to increase equity of access to transplantation across Scotland, making sure organ failure is diagnosed early wherever possible and “factors such as where someone lives doesn’t affect their chances of being referred for a transplant”.
John Casey and Dr Iain Macleod, co-chairs of the Scottish Donation and Transplant Group, said: “The new action plan will build on the progress made in recent years to improve transplantation and organ donation in Scotland.
“It contains key elements which will improve the lives and experiences of patients and, as such, we very much welcome its introduction.”