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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 14 January, 2003, 10:50 GMT
Kidney patients miss out on dialysis
Kidney dialysis
Demand for dialysis is rising
People with kidney disease are failing to receive potentially-life saving dialysis because of a serious shortage of machines, research has found.

The National Kidney Research Fund (NKRF) surveyed 71 kidney units providing dialysis on the NHS.

It found that 12 units had been forced to turn away patients during 2001 because they could not cope with demand.

If someone needs dialysis and does not have it they will die

John Bradley
Seven units turned away between two and 20 patients during the year.

Other units said they had to adopt emergency measures to cope with demand, such as setting up temporary dialysis stations or offering overnight treatment.

In some cases patients are being offered two dialysis sessions a week instead of three.

A majority of units said they had absolutely no capacity to spare.

Over 90% of units admitted they had had trouble taking patients from outside their area.

And over 75% of units had experienced some difficulty in arranging the permanent transfer of patients who move to a different area.

The problems could intensify as it is estimated that the number of people requiring dialysis will double over the next ten years.

Low rate

In total 19,307 patients were receiving dialysis at the time the survey was carried out.

This equates to a rate of 328 patients per million population.

Across Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands the average rate is 537 per million - some 63% higher than in the UK.

In a statement, the NKRF said the government's National Service Framework for renal services, announced last year, offered a "real opportunity" to raise the quality of medical care and reduce inequalities in the service.

However, it went on: "With numbers of patients requiring dialysis expected to rise significantly in the coming years and with several provider units already at maximum capacity, there is cause for considerable concern that the existing limited facilities will be insufficient to provide patients with optimal dialysis care for their renal condition in the future without some form of expansion.

"One questions whether the UK has the infrastructure needed to put the principles of the NSF in place."

John Bradley, director of renal services at Cambridge's Addenbrooke's Hospital, told the BBC: "There's no spare capacity in provision of dialysis, but the numbers are continually growing.

"If someone needs dialysis and does not have it they will die."

"We can't improve things without more money. But we also need more staff and more space"

Once the kidneys fail, a patient must start on dialysis within three months. If treatment is delayed, their life is at risk.

Dialysis takes over the function of the kidneys, filtering out toxins from the bloodstream.

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  The BBC's Karen Allen
"The demand for dialysis is exceeding supply"
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15 Oct 01 | J-M
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