UP to 700 more lives could be saved each year by a new organ donor system to be announced by the Government.

New laws will means that everyone over 18 will be expected to donate their organs for transplant when they die unless they actively register their wish not to.

Ministers say the changes will be in place within two years and will throw a lifeline to desperately ill people in the queue for new liver, kidney, heart or lungs.

It will also spare grieving families from the agony of having to give consent for a loved one’s organs to be donated if they are unaware of their wishes.

The new rules will be known as Max’s Law, after campaigning 10-year-old Max Johnson, whose life was saved by a heart transplant.

Under the proposals, the donor register will include an option for people to state important religious and cultural beliefs to ensure they are respected.

Research shows that 82 per cent of people in England support organ donation - but only 37 per cent have indicated so on the register.

And less than half of families give consent for their loved one’s organs to be donated.

The proposed law will aim to close this gap, and is expected to be rolled out by the Government in Spring 2020.

Junior health minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Organ donation saves lives. We believe that by making these changes, we can save as many as 700 more lives every year.

“But organ donation remains a gift. I want to encourage people who wish to give life in the event of their death to take the time to record their wishes and discuss it with their family.

“However, we know this new system alone is not a magic bullet. We need to address myths and misconceptions around donation, and we will only do this by having informed debate and dialogue, which I hope will be fostered by these proposals.”

Under-18s, people with limited mental capacity and others who have not lived in England for at least a year prior to their death will be exempt from the scheme.

It follows a consultation earlier in 2018 which drew 17,000 responses from the public.

The legislation, which was introduced in Parliament in July 2017, will return to the House of Commons in the autumn.

Those who do not wish to donate can record this on the NHS register either online, by phone or on an app to be released by the end of the year.

A 12-month transition period will pave the way for the launch.

Last year 411 people in the UK died on the transplant waiting list.

Simon Gillespie, chief executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “There is a desperate shortage of organ donors in the UK.

“Introducing an opt-out system in England will better reflect the views of the general public and give hope to those currently waiting for a transplant they so desperately need.”

Helen Stokes-Lampard, who chairs the Royal College of GPS, welcomed the news but added: “Until this new system comes into effect in 2020, the country is likely to remain desperately short of donors and too many lives will continue to be cut short because of a chronic lack of organs – many of which are completely safe and suitable to use.

“We recognise that some people are opposed to organ donation for a number of reasons, and that must be respected, but we urge anyone else who is not currently a donor to become one.”