The government needs to take immediate and long-term action to protect the wellbeing of around 70,000 vulnerable kidney patients, according to the findings of a new report released today by the UK’s leading kidney patient support charity, Kidney Care UK.
The ‘Out of sight, out of mind; the continuing impact of COVID-19 on people living with kidney disease’ report* comes as huge swathes of the UK are moving into Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions. It shows that the majority of kidney patients have been expected to return to work once shielding ended and the furlough scheme ends. Nearly two thirds of respondents (63%) told us they were concerned for their safety but had to return regardless. Almost one in five (19%) said that their employer has been ‘very unhelpful’ or ‘unhelpful’ in their return.
Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, said: “Many kidney patients in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group are being forced to choose between protecting their health and keeping a roof over their family’s heads. Under the latest guidance someone in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group who is unable to work because their workplace cannot be made covid safe, may be eligible for SSP or ESA – there is no other financial support being made available by the government.
“Even if they are eligible, both benefits are significantly less than the average wage in the UK; at £95.85 a week SSP is more generous but still just one quarter of the average weekly take home wage of £414. This is simply not good enough and the government needs to do more to support people who are stuck between a rock and a hard place. No one should ever be forced to choose between protecting their livelihood and protecting their life.”
More than a third of patients (36%) are struggling with their mental health and many are anxious about accessing essential supplies of food and medicine as infection rates increase. Almost half of the respondents (49%) have experienced disruption to their care; a fifth (22%) have had surgery or appointments cancelled. As schools reopened many were concerned about allowing their children to return; 1 in 10 told us they were considering not allowing their child to go back.
Many patients have told the charity as former ‘shielders’ they have felt that they are being kept out of sight and therefore are also out of mind. Kidney Care UK are calling on the government to take both immediate action and put long term plans in place to ensure that kidney patients do not fall through the cracks:
- The Government needs to deliver protection, in law, for employees so that clinically extremely vulnerable people are supported to work and do not lose their job due to vulnerability
- NHS leaders need to take immediate action to ensure no kidney patient is denied access to the care or information they need, and ensure that the NHS is open for non-Covid treatment
- The Government and the NHS need to strongly consider the mental health of clinically extremely vulnerable patients in making decisions that impact their lives, and provide a package of measures to support patients during this difficult time
- The Government must reinstate the support and choices provided by the shielding programme and offer a package of care that enables clinically extremely vulnerable people to protect themselves if a tier 3 local lockdown is in place or shielding reintroduced
- The Government need to deliver clear and specific guidance for school leaders, spreading best practice and encouraging schools to allow flexibility for teachers and pupils, where a loved one is clinically extremely vulnerable and must be helped to protect themselves during the pandemic.
Around 70,000 people with Chronic Kidney Disease are in the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group including those with transplants, those on dialysis and those with specific types of kidney disease requiring immunosuppressants. The pandemic has had a profound impact. Kidney Care UK’s support services have seen a huge increase in the requests from kidney patients and their families, illustrating the challenges they face and their urgent need for information, advice and support including; a 33% increase in calls to the charity between February and March; and the Kidney Care UK Advocacy Service had the highest monthly requests for support on record - a 30% increase compared to March 2019. The charity has had to recruit additional staff to support requests for counselling.
*The report was compiled using responses from an online survey. The survey was open from 28 August to 21 September 2020. It was advertised on Kidney Care UK social media networks. 860 responses were received.
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