Cost of living crisis means kidney disease patients may not be able to afford life-saving dialysis


Thousands of Britons may struggle to afford life-saving kidney treatment due to the cost of living crisis, a charity warned today.

Kidney Care UK said increasing electricity and fuel costs could see the UK’s 30,000 dialysis patients unable to afford treatment at home or in hospitals.

Patients whose organs have started to fail need dialysis, which sees them connected to a machine which takes on the role of the kidneys. 

But each session is energy-intensive — equivalent to taking 75 baths — and the price of running them is only set to keep rising.

Most people undergoing treatment at home are reimbursed by the NHS for running the machines. Yet this standard tariff is not adjusted for the cost of energy and there is variation in whether people get reimbursements on-time and in full.

Those undergoing the treatment at hospital face travelling there three days a week at a time when fuel prices are soaring to record highs daily — with petrol prices hitting an average of 185p a litre on Sunday. 

Fiona Loud, policy director for Kidney Care UK, warned kidney disease patients tend to be poorer because they have to follow an expensive diet and cannot work due to how long the treatment takes.

She said the costs of managing the condition were ‘affecting people previously’ but it has got ‘so much worse’ as the cost of living rises.

It comes as dentists today warned that appointments are becoming ‘unaffordable’ — as one in five Britons fear they will have to shun getting their teeth checked amid the cost of living crisis. 

Increasing costs of electricity and fuel could see the UK’s 30,000 dialysis patients unable to afford the treatment at home or in hospitals, Kidney Care UK said today. Pictured: man receiving dialysis

WHAT IS DIALYSIS?

Dialysis removes waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly. It often involves diverting blood to a machine to be cleaned.

Normally, the kidneys filter the blood, removing harmful waste products and excess fluid and turning these into urine to be passed out of the body.

But people with kidney disease are unable to do this themselves.

This causes waste products to build up to dangerous levels in the body, causes unpleasant symptoms — such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping and itchy skin — and be lethal. Around 45,000 people in the UK and 250,000 in the US die every year due to kidney failure.

Some people only need dialysis temporarily, if their kidney failure is reversed. But others will need a kidney transplant and dialysis is needed until a donor is available. 

And patients not well enough for a major operation may need dialysis for the rest of their life. 

Those undergoing dialysis at hospitals are forced to spend four hours per day, three times a week, receiving the blood-cleansing treatment. 

The time-intensive treatment means three-quarters of those on dialysis are unable to work. 

Ms Loud said: ‘We’ve found people with kidney disease are often financially disadvantaged and people receiving dialysis at home are at particular risk due to the high energy consumption from dialysis machines.

‘The typical household would have to take 75 baths a week to use same amount of water as someone who undergoes dialysis overnight.

‘There is no cure for kidney failure, the only two treatments are dialysis or transplantation so your life is turned upside down anyway without the additional raising costs as well.’

Dialysis removes waste products and excess fluid from the blood when the kidneys stop working properly. It often involves diverting blood to a machine to be cleaned.

Normally, the kidneys filter the blood, removing harmful waste products and excess fluid and turning these into urine to be passed out of the body.

But people with kidney disease are unable to do this themselves.

This causes waste products to build up to dangerous levels in the body and triggers unpleasant symptoms — such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping and itchy skin — and be can lethal. 

Around 45,000 people in the UK and 250,000 in the US die every year due to kidney failure.

Those undergoing dialysis at hospitals are forced to spend four hours per day, three times a week, receiving the blood-cleansing treatment. 

By 2023, all patients dialysis patients should be offered free transport or a ‘reasonable’ refund to cover their trip if they are referred to hospital. But this is not currently in place for everyone with kidney disease.

And the time-intensive treatment means three-quarters of those on dialysis are unable to work. 

Ms Loud said: ‘If you spend three days a week in hospital on dialysis you have to travel in and out of the hospital and spend four hours at a time undergoing treatment, taking up six to eight hours a day for three days a week then your ability to work is impacted.

‘Only around 25 per cent of people with kidney failure will be working and the other 75 per cent will not be and will have other disabilities associated with that.’

She added: ‘Another disadvantage of kidney failure is needing to have a special diet which tends to cost more money — it also makes you anaemic leaving you really cold and tired, people have no idea how difficult it is to have kidney failure.

It comes as one in five Britons are concerned they will no longer be able to afford regular dentist appointments, according to a survey of 2,000 Britons by the Association of Dental Groups. And 13 per cent expect they will have to cut back on their dental appointments to save cash, while six per cent have already cancelled appointments for this reason

It comes as one in five Britons are concerned they will no longer be able to afford regular dentist appointments, according to a survey of 2,000 Britons by the Association of Dental Groups. And 13 per cent expect they will have to cut back on their dental appointments to save cash, while six per cent have already cancelled appointments for this reason

BRITS CUT BACK ON DENTAL CARE AMID COST OF LIVING CRISIS – SURVEY

One in five Britons are concerned they will no longer be able to afford regular dentist appointments, according to a survey of 2,000 Britons by the Association of Dental Groups. 

And 13 per cent expect they will have to cut back on their dental appointments to save cash, while six per cent have already cancelled appointments for this reason. 

However, many also cited long waiting lists and the Covid backlog.

Results also showed that two-fifths of Britons have not been to the dentist in the last year, with a fifth blaming the cost. 

Neil Carmichael, chair of the association and former Tody MP for Stroud, said: ‘The cost of living is rising sharply, and people should not have to choose between living costs and caring for their teeth.

‘It is now harder than ever to get access to dental care in this country and the Government’s slow progress on NHS contract reform is making the situation worse.’

He added: ‘NHS dental charges have been rising well above inflation for several years until 2021 – as with prescription charges the Government should now reassure the public and announce a freeze to avoid people being deterred from seeking care due to the cost of living crisis.’

‘If there was ever a candidate for ‘levelling up’NHS dentistry must be it.’ 

‘We’ve also just been through the Covid pandemic where people with kidney failure have been the most highly affected in terms of hospitalisation and deaths alongside people with blood cancer.

‘NHS policy says the costs of running the machines at home should be reimbursed but it’s generally a standard amount which doesn’t relate to any of the recent prices rises.

‘And we have identified a great deal of variation in whether people get the reimbursements on time, in full, and there’s even a few places where there’s no reimbursement.

‘All of this needs to be done and needs to be done yesterday.

‘It was something affecting people previously but it’s got so much worse, as a charity we give hardship grants but we can only paper over the cracks.

‘We’re there to help and we want people to talk to us if they’re having these problems.’

A Government spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to supporting kidney patients with the pressures of the cost of living, and those receiving haemodialysis treatment at home are eligible to have related additional energy costs reimbursed by their dialysis provider. The amount reimbursed is expected to match increases in the patient’s utility tariff.

‘More broadly, we are taking action to support households with the cost of living – including £1,200 for 8million vulnerable households and £400 for all families this year. Those on certain benefits for long-term illness or health conditions will be able to receive the extra payments, such as the £650 cost of living payment and £150 disability cost of living payment.’ 

It comes as one in five Britons are concerned they will no longer be able to afford regular dentist appointments, according to a survey of 2,000 Britons by the Association of Dental Groups. 

And 13 per cent expect they will have to cut back on their dental appointments to save cash, while six per cent have already cancelled appointments for this reason. They also cited long waiting lists and the Covid backlog.

Results also showed that two-fifths of Britons have not been to the dentist in the last year, with a fifth blaming the cost. 

Neil Carmichael, chair of the association and former Tory MP for Stroud, said: ‘The cost of living is rising sharply, and people should not have to choose between living costs and caring for their teeth.

‘It is now harder than ever to get access to dental care in this country and the Government’s slow progress on NHS contract reform is making the situation worse.’

He added: ‘NHS dental charges have been rising well above inflation for several years until 2021 – as with prescription charges the Government should now reassure the public and announce a freeze to avoid people being deterred from seeking care due to the cost of living crisis.’

‘If there was ever a candidate for ‘levelling up’ NHS dentistry must be it.’ 

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