MORE lives have been saved due to the new opt out organ donation system.

Yesterday marked six months since Max and Keira's Law came into effect in England, meaning everyone is considered as willing to donate - unless they opt out, are in an excluded group, or have told their family they don't want to donate.

NHS Blood and Transplant revealed the impact the new system has had to date, with 135 people donating their organs, after being considered as willing to donate as they had previously not expressed a decision in their lifetime.

These donations counted for 26 per cent of all donations that took place - from May 20 to August 31 - and resulted in a total of 341 transplants.

The news has been welcomed by long-standing campaigners in Cumbria, including Shelley and Lee Wealleans whose son Mackenzie died in 2011, while waiting for a heart transplant.

Shelley, 35, of Penrith, said: "It's great because if it's 135 people there is more than one organ that could have potentially been used so the lives it will have saved is amazing.

"If it continues like this, hopefully, heart disease in younger people, and in any generation, it could kind of be eradicated quicker. I know it's never going to disappear but the increase now of the survival rate is amazing. I think it's fantastic."

In the last five years 19 people in Cumbria have died waiting for a transplant. Figure, from July, showed 15 people in the county underwent the organ transplants they needed in 2019/20, but 38 still need surgery.

Shelley knows all too well how agonising that wait is and how heartbreaking it is when it becomes too late.

Mackenzie, who died days before his second birthday, was at the top of the international transplant waiting list for 60 days.

Shelley is able to take some comfort knowing other children will have the chance her son didn't.

She also said: "I've got to think of my children as well. We don't know if it's hereditary. Not tests could ever tell us if it was or wasn't.

"I hope it never hits my children, ever, but if it does I just hope the increase [in donors] that's happening will be enough to save my future grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on.

"It's a relief for me just in case my daughter has to go what I went through as well."

Even though the law around organ donation has changed, people still have a choice and families will still be consulted if organ donation becomes a possibility.

"Everyone needs to talk about it because even though the law is in place and, yes you can sign the register still, there is a clause in there that if your significant other doesn't agree, they can still withdraw the consent for it.

"You have got to make sure your feelings are known and you understand the declaration you are making for that organ to be taken. It needs to be an open discussion and you can't be quiet about it," added Shelley. "You have got to make sure everybody understands why you want to do it, because you're giving someone a life at the end of it."

The hope is that the new law will eventually enable more people to donate and/or receive the transplants they need.

Prior to the law change, around 80 per cent of people in England said that they supported organ donation in principle, but only 38 per cent had actually recorded their decision to donate. When asked, the majority said they just hadn’t got around to it.

In Cumbria 42.6 per cent of the population have registered an organ donation decision which is higher than the national average.