Last updated on 28 Jun 2021

Meet an IA

My name is Barrie Newton and I have been an Independent Assessor for just over seven years. My background is in Healthcare Chaplaincy.  I was approached by a colleague from the Renal Unit about the need for Independent Assessors. In my work I had daily contact with patients and had met many whose lives depended on getting a transplant. I was keen to work in a system which gave hope to patients with kidney failure. In particular, because I was told that live donor transplants usually have a better outcome than organs from a deceased donor.

To become an Independent Assessor, I first did an online training course. I then sat in with an experienced Independent Assessor before interviewing potential donors and recipientson my own. I also attend the Conferences and training days organised by the HTA from time to time.

What do I do?

In my role, I have to ask questions to be certain that the donor has been given all of the information they need to give informed consent to the surgery. This includes the details of the risks involved. I also have to gather information or evidence about whether there has been any duress or coercion or reward offered. This is because these factors may influence the donor’s decision to donate. It is also unlawful to ask for or receive a reward in exchange for donating tissues or organs for transplantation.

Our Live Donor Clinic takes place every Wednesday afternoon. There are three Independent Assessors attached to our clinic. The Friday before, the Living Donor Co-ordinator will contact us to let us know how many pairs there are to be seen. We then receive a copy of the referral letter which asks the Independent Assessor to meet with the pair. We are allocated rooms in the clinic and each Independent Assessor interviews his/her pair together and separately. Before meeting us, the donor will have been given a copy of the Guidance for living organ donors on the HTA Independent Assessment process to read.  They will also be given a donor declaration to sign to confirm that the organ is being given as a gift, with no reward of any kind offered or asked for.

After the assessment is completed, we send a report to the HTA based on the answers we receive from our interviews. These reports are reviewed by staff at the HTA. It is the HTA that decides whether the donation can be approved based on criteria set out in law.

Why do I do it?

I have always felt that we Independent Assessors have the privilege of seeing human nature at its most generous. In order to give a new lease of life to a loved one - a partner, child, sibling, cousin or lifelong friend - donors volunteer to undergo major surgery which they don’t actually need. They willingly accept discomfort and disruption to their lives in order that someone special to them may live longer and be free from disease.

Additionally, a growing number of people are coming forward as non-directed altruistic donors. In other words, they are generously offering one of their kidneys to someone who needs it - a complete stranger whom they are unlikely to ever know.

In short, we spend the majority of our time talking to unselfish people who just want to make life better for someone else. They do this willingly out of love. Donors are invited to offer us a written statement explaining why they have made the decision to do this amazing thing. Reading these statements often brings tears to the eyes and they reveal the very best in human nature. Being an Independent Assessor is one of the most rewarding and humbling roles in our healthcare system. I feel privileged to have been able to share in this work.

Comments from some of our IAs on the role

“With more experience now, I am confident in interviewing and know where to access help from the HTA if needed.”

“A very positive and rewarding part of my job that I am extremely happy to make time to perform.”

“Generally, the work provides an inspiring and privileged insight into the lives of kidney donors.”

“I have always found the experience of the IA role very rewarding and have a supportive and appreciative relationship with the referring Transplant Coordinator.”

“Love the role…. Keeps me grounded.”