Patient groups have expressed concern about the decline in the rates of organ donation and transplantation last year.

Latest figures from the Council of Europe show that Ireland is now in 18th place of EU countries in 2020 for organ transplants, slipping from 14th place in 2019.

The Irish Donor Network (IDN) has called on the Government to undertake a range of measures to develop what it called an ambitious and detailed plan to raise Ireland into the top 10 in the EU by 2025

According to the report, lung transplants were down 58% in 2020 compared with 2019.

Heart transplants were down 42%, liver transplants were down 45% and kidney transplants, from both living and deceased donors, were down 21% compared with 2019.

The IDN says pancreas transplants in Ireland bucked the overall trend and actually increased from 2019 to 2020, though the actual numbers of transplants involved are smaller (two transplants in 2019 compared with five in 2020).

The network is also calling on the Government enact the Human Tissue Bill, accelerate the full return of all transplant facilities used for Covid-19, and significantly increase investment.

The Council of Europe Newsletter Transplant 2020 said that transplantation programmes across the world have suffered during the pandemic.

The HSE said although the overall number of transplants were lower last year, the number carried out was "still a great achievement given the challenges caused by the pandemic".

It added: "Transplant and donation services were significantly impacted by a number of factors including - access to ICU infrastructure given the overwhelming pressure and demand on this service to treat Covid-19 patients, the risk to patients in undergoing transplant and risk of Covid 19 infection and, thirdly, the need to redeploy key donation staff to support Covid 19 hospital care in our hospitals.

"During the pandemic 60% of organ donor personnel were redeployed to support the ICU Covid surge. The remaining 40% maintained the service 24/7. Transplant surgical services were paused and or redeployed to private hospitals to support and bridge activity."