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Flexibility needed to reopen transplants amid shocking statistics

22 June 2020

There have been 555 fewer kidney transplants so far this year, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to estimates by NHS Blood and Transplant.

The enormous slow down is largely due to many transplant centres closing to avoid exposing vulnerable patients to the risk of infection, as well as NHS resources being diverted to the COVID-19 frontline. Fewer deceased donor organs have been available due to a decline in road traffic accidents during lockdown. 

“It is very worrying that far fewer transplant operations have been able to take place since the pandemic hit,” commented Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK. The backlog will mean patients are waiting far longer, and some may now not get a transplant at all. 

“Paradoxically, patient safety has been at the heart of the decisions to halt activity at transplant centres in recent months. Clinicians are having to carefully weigh up the risks of putting patients through major surgery and subsequently onto immune suppressing medication exposing them to greater potential possibility of infection from COVID-19, with the risks of delaying surgery when patients’ kidneys have failed and dialysis cannot sustain them forever. 

The good news is that, as of last week, more than half of the UK’s transplant centres had opened back up and many living donor schemes are opening up more rapidly. 

Transplant professionals have been working hard to find new, smarter ways of providing a clearer and cleaner pathway of care for patients – for example moving operations to hospitals less impacted by the pandemic in some areas. 

“It is imperative that Government prioritises getting transplant services back up and running and supports greater flexibility and imaginative thinking across NHS trusts and boards to enable safe operations and recovery,” said Sandra. Speed is of the essence to kidney patients waiting for life-saving transplants. 

Find out whether your transplant centre is open or closed.

Information and support concerning issues around transplantation at this time is available through Kidney Care UK.

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