A West Midlands hospital today pilots a scheme to increase ten-fold the number of live kidney donors.
New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton will push for a greater awareness of organ donation across the West Midlands.
It has appointed a "living donor coordinator" to improve the information about transplants given to donors and recipients from next week.
New Cross is one of only two hospitals taking part in the national joint initiative being carried out by the Department of Health, NHS and pharmaceutical industry.
The UK is in desperate need of live donors as the numbers of patients who need kidney transplants rises about seven per cent per year.
At least 5,000 people in the UK are waiting for a kidney transplant, but just 1,915 were carried out last year and only 526 of those were from live donors.
About 19,000 patients are on kidney dialysis and may have to wait months or years for a suitable transplant.
New Cross Hospital and The Royal Preston Hospital in Lancashire were chosen for the 18-month pilot because of the reputation of their dialysis units.
Dr Maurice Jackson, who is director of renal services at the NHS Trust which runs New Cross, said the initiative would help save lives immediately.
He said: "The lack of donor kidneys has been a big problem. I hope this will increase the number of patients who get transplants. There are already ten patients who will benefit in the coming weeks from siblings or relatives who have offered their organs." If the initiative is a success, it will be rolled out to dialysis units nationwide.
Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: "The number of patients requiring a transplant has increased dramatically over recent years.
"It is essential that we increase the number of organs available and living kidney transplantation is one way of doing so.
"We really need to follow examples set in the US and in Scandinavian countries where living kidney donation accounts for up to 40 per cent of all kidney transplants.
"This is a very exciting project which we are delighted to be involved in."
Rates of living kidney donation are much lower in the UK than in other countries such as the US and the Netherlands, where live donation is the preferred treatment for people with renal failure.
In Britain, the majority of transplanted kidneys are from people who have died as a result of a brain haemorrhage or road accident.
Transplants involving living kidney donors have a survival rate of 93 per cent after one year, compared with 87 per cent for patients receiving an organ from a dead donor - known as cadaveric donation.
The respective figures after five years are 84 per cent and 73 per cent.
In 1994, a report by the health improvement charity the Kings's Fund recommended a programme to increase the number of live donor kidney donations that would overcome the problem of too few kidneys being available.
Sue Sutherland, UK Transplant chief executive, said: "The success rates of living kidney transplants compared to cadaveric donations are hugely impressive.
"Increasing the education of patients and their families and friends about living kidney transplant is imperative if we are to increase the number of people who can benefit from a successful transplant."