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[IP] US health system may not be great, but...
Kidney patients dying in dialysis care shortage
By Jeremy Laurance Health Editor
14 January 2003
Britain is in the grip of an epidemic of kidney failure and people are
dying because hospitals do not have enough dialysis machines to keep them
About 100,000 people have kidney disease but only 34,000 receive dialysis
- regular treatment on a kidney machine - or have had a transplant, the
National Kidney Research Fund (NKRF) says.
When the kidneys fail, patients must receive dialysis or a transplant
within three months or they will die.
A survey of the 71 kidney units providing dialysis on the NHS in the UK
found some were being forced to turn away patients because they could not
cope with the demand.
The NKRF survey found 12 units turned away patients in 2001. Seven said
they turned away between two and 20 patients each during the year. Others
reported having to take emergency measures to accommodate patients by
setting up temporary dialysis stations or treating them overnight.
The report says: "Some providers acknowledged that the final options for
such patients are conservative management and/or death." John Bradley,
director of the renal unit at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, said:
"There is concern that patients are dying because they can't get dialysis.
If you talk to the units they say they don't know what happens to the
patients they turn away."
Kidney failure is a growing problem in Britain, fuelled by the rise in
diabetes caused by increasing obesity. The total number of sufferers is
projected to double over the next decade. It is four times more common in
Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. Treatment involves being connected to a kidney
machine, three times a week, for dialysis that cleanses the blood of
impurities. Some patients survive for decades having dialysis but it costs
#30,000 a year.
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