2021 Winner

Rosemary Cox

Successfully campaigned to set up the first Organ Donor Register in the UK, helping to save thousands of lives.

After their 24-year-old son Peter died in 1989 following a brain tumour, Rosemary and John Cox saw the need for a register for people who wish to donate their organs.

Peter had asked before his death that his organs be used to help others and his gift saved and transformed the lives of 17 people. But his parents found that although patients in need of a transplant were listed on a central NHS computer, there was no equivalent register for potential donors.

In 1990, the couple from Wolverhampton and their daughter Christine launched their campaign, travelling the country, lobbying politicians, writing letters and articles and speaking to groups creating awareness for their cause.

Their efforts culminated at the 1993 Conservative Party Conference when Christine made an impassioned plea from the platform for a register of donors’ wishes. Health Secretary Virginia Bottomley pledged there and then that the proposal would be considered and the NHS Organ Donor Register was launched on October 6th, 1994.

Today the number of people who have registered their organ donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register has reached over 26 million or 42% of the UK population. Meanwhile, since the register was established on the 6th October 1994, over 27,000 people have donated their organs after their death and over 76,000 deceased donor transplants have taken place.

Rosemary is now 82. Her husband John passed away in 2007, but their son’s legacy lives on and she continues to campaign to promote the benefits of organ transplantation. When the NHS marked the register’s 25th anniversary in 2019, it was revealed it had saved or transformed 20,000 lives. And over the last 12 months, NHS Blood and Transplant facilitated nearly 3,400 transplants.

After learning she is a Pride of Britain winner, Rosemary said: “I’m shocked but delighted that our campaign has been recognised in this way. This award is for all the donors and their families who give the altruistic gift of life in their darkest days. Peter’s memory will live on through the Register but without the incredible work of the surgeons and nurses, transplants would not be possible and I want to pay tribute to their life saving work.”

And her daughter Christine added: “Losing a child is the worst experience. To make something positive come from a tragic loss is an incredible achievement. I am thrilled that the tremendous work my Mum has undertaken, helping others throughout her life, has been recognised.”