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Mobile renal dialysis units help to alleviate kidney disease crisis

Jo Quarterman, EMS Healthcare’s Divisional Director of Clinical Capacity, looks at the scale of the threat faced by the NHS.

Jo Quarterman Jo Quarterman

Published 12 September 2023

Mobile renal dialysis units help to alleviate kidney disease crisis Clinical capacity

A new report is warning that kidney disease has become a public health emergency in the UK, with cases growing so rapidly it could impact on the lives of more than 7.5 million people over the next decade, unless there is significant government intervention.  

Kidney Research UK published the independently produced report into the economic impact of kidney disease alongside stark projections that could see NHS capacity for dialysis treatment overwhelmed, unless the disease becomes a government priority.

The report, kidney disease: A UK public health emergency, lays bare the growing costs of kidney disease, both in treating patients and in money lost to the economy, by people being left unable to work due to time-consuming and gruelling treatment.  

Key report findings:

  • 30,000 adults and children are currently on dialysis, stretching NHS capacity to the limit
  • This figure could rise to 143,000 over the next 10 years, according to predictive modelling
  • NHS capacity would need to increase by 400% to meet essential demand
  • 7.19 million people in the UK are estimated to be living with kidney disease – more than 10% of the population
  • By 2033, the report forecasts that this figure could increase to 7.61 million 

Patients with diabetes, high-blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and obesity are all at increased risk of developing kidney disease, with the numbers of people with these risk factors also growing.

Sandra Currie, Chief Executive of Kidney Research UK, said: “There is no cure for kidney disease, a transplant does not last a lifetime and dialysis patients face hours of gruelling treatment every week, taking them away from loved ones and making it harder to work.”

EMS Healthcare’s experience has shown that mobile renal dialysis units can play a significant role in relieving pressure on in NHS hospitals by expanding access to dialysis services and providing more flexible care options.

As a trusted partner of the NHS for the last 15 years, EMS has supported more than 50 Trusts, Health Boards, and private providers in delivering additional capacity wherever and whenever it is needed. There is no doubt that challenges around dialysis treatment are high on the agenda for many Trusts across the country. 

Supporting major London Trusts

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the busiest Trusts in London and, like many others, faces the daily challenge of increasing demand for space and services.

EMS Healthcare supplied a renal dialysis facility at Dulwich Community Hospital, creating much needed additional capacity for a Trust under severe pressure.

The Trust explained its rationale for extra support: “We opted for a temporary mobile facility, as it provided the most time and cost-effective solution. It offered a clinical and flexible environment that was essential for the Trust to provide first class patient care.”

At St George’s University Hospital, also in London, the Trust required an urgent solution to ensure the continuation of care during some unforeseen building work.  Within six weeks, we deployed a mobile unit with eight renal stations.

Crucially, St George’s were able to continue to provide vital patient care with an uninterrupted renal service, throughout the construction period.

There are several other facets to mobile renal dialysis units that we believe are crucial for supporting people suffering from kidney disease:

Better access to dialysis services: Mobile clinics can bring dialysis services to remote or underserved areas, allowing patients who may have difficulty travelling to a hospital for treatment to access care more easily. This can help reduce the burden on centralised NHS hospitals, which often experience high demand for dialysis services.

Reducing waiting times: By decentralising dialysis services, mobile clinics can help reduce waiting times for patients needing dialysis treatment, improving overall patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Extra support for at-risk populations: Mobile units can target areas with higher rates of kidney disease and actively engage with at-risk populations. By offering early screening and education, they can help identify and manage kidney disease before it progresses to the point of requiring hospital-based dialysis.

Supporting chronic disease management: In addition to dialysis services, mobile clinics can offer services to support the management of chronic kidney disease (CKD), such as monitoring blood pressure, managing medications, and co-ordinating care with other healthcare agencies.

Home dialysis training: Mobile clinics can provide training for patients and their families on home-based dialysis options. Home dialysis allows patients to undergo treatment in the comfort of their own homes, reducing the need for frequent hospital visits.

Following the latest Kidney Research UK findings, campaigners are calling on the government to take urgent action or face the reality of the NHS being overwhelmed in the next decade. 

Proposed healthcare interventions:

  • Earlier and improved diagnosis, targeting under-served populations through outreach programmes to improve screening opportunities and increase early diagnosis
  • Improved management of chronic kidney disease for patients who are either untreated or not receiving standard care according to clinical guidelines
  • Greater use of new medications such as SGLT-2 inhibitors – a medication used in diabetes treatment, but which also slows progression of kidney disease
  • Increased rates of transplantation, specifically pre-emptive transplants that would prevent people needing dialysis. This intervention would be cost saving for the NHS.

Sandra Currie from Kidney Research UK, added: “We know the only hope for stopping the growth of kidney disease and the increasing burden to the health system, the economy and to patients is better prevention strategies, earlier diagnosis, and better treatment options, and yet kidney disease isn’t even included in NHS long-term strategic plan. This report provides some hope and offers some solutions, but only if there is a committed and active response.”

In our experience, by utilising mobile renal dialysis units to extend services beyond traditional hospital settings, the NHS can better meet the needs of kidney disease patients and alleviate some of the pressure on hospital-based dialysis centres.

If you’d like to understand more about how EMS Healthcare can help your organisation, please get in touch: