New UK Renal Psychosocial Workforce report reveals there are not enough psychosocial staff to provide care to all renal patients in the UK and that psychosocial provision for kidney patients has declined in real terms over the last 15 years. This is according to research undertaken by Kidney Care UK, the University of Salford, the British Renal Society, the British Psychological Society and the British Association of Social Workers (renal special interest group).
The research highlights that none of the 84 units in the UK employs the recommended number of social workers and only 5% of the 84 units employ the recommended number of psychologists. There is also considerable variation in the provision of psychosocial support throughout the UK from unit to unit; from counsellors, youth workers, social workers, welfare advisors, and psychologists.
Adult psychosocial services have increased by 25% in the last 15 years; however the number of patients who need to access these services has increased by 50%. The number of psychologists in adult services has increased over the last 15 years. However, at the same time, the number of social workers has decreased. In paediatric care, over the last 15 years, psychology and social work services have decreased by 21%.
Paul Bristow, Deputy Chief Executive at Kidney Care UK said: “We need to do something to reverse this worrying downward trend and ensure that the complex needs of kidney patients are met. Better provision of psychosocial support is urgently required, if we truly believe in ‘patient centred care’, not as an extra service, but as an essential and integral part of the patient journey through renal services.”
Dr Emma Coyne, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Chair of the Renal Psychologists Network (British Psychological Society), and one of the authors of the report, said: “Kidney patients have to cope with many physical and emotional challenges including time consuming and invasive treatments such as dialysis and transplantation. Research has demonstrated that kidney patients who struggle with low mood and anxiety have poorer health outcomes.
This shouldn’t be a postcode lottery; specialist renal psychosocial care is essential to support both physical and mental health. All kidney patients need access to psychosocial support within their local renal service.”The NICE Chronic Kidney Disease quality standard (QS5) (2011) includes a standard stating that, ‘people with established renal failure have access to psychological support (which may include support with personal, family, financial, employment and/or social needs appropriate to their circumstances)’. Despite this, psychosocial issues are often neglected and regarded as an optional extra. Patients themselves would disagree and may well identify these services as their most important need.
Paul Bristow, adds: “Ultimately, we need more research into the complex needs of kidney patients so that innovative solutions and interventions can be found in order to provide the right level of care to enable kidney patients to take more control of their lives and live well with kidney disease.”
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