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Mental health impact on kidney disease patients revealed: our new report calls for urgent change to services

11 May 2023

Last year we received an overwhelming response to the survey we ran to gauge how kidney patients felt about their mental health and the support available. Supporters took up the cause and emailed politicians to address the lack of provision, shining a vital light on this fundamental issue.

In a tough political landscape, it is more important than ever to present decision makers with a solid, evidence-based case for change. For the past year we have been working with Centre for Mental Health, which exists to build research evidence to create fairer mental health policy.

Launch of a new report

Today we are launching a new report we commissioned into the mental health impact of kidney disease on patients, recommending urgent improvements to the current model of care. Written by Centre for Mental Health, the report sets out the significant mental health needs of people living with chronic kidney disease, linking worsening mental health conditions with poor patient outcomes.

Having reviewed over 200 academic papers and spoken to patients, families and healthcare professionals, the report authors set out the evidence of the immense burden that invasive and life-limiting treatments place on kidney patients’ mental health. The report, titled Addressing the mental health challenges of life with kidney disease: The case for change, outlines the type of support needed to improve outcomes.

The two organisations have put forward three core recommendations to improve the quality of and access to mental health care.

  • Implementation of a more tailored approach to mental health care through a stepped model that becomes more specialised depending on the individual’s need.
  • Investment into all renal services to ensure that staff are trained and supported to assess and refer patients for further mental health help.
  • Increased government funding for research into the relationship between kidney disease and mental health to enable the ongoing development of essential services.

Working together to influence change

Together with Centre for Mental Health we will be working together to influence change in the light of these recommendations, from Ministerial level to service providers and in liaison with organisations representing people with other long-term conditions.

Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK
Sandra Currie

Sandra Currie, chief executive at Kidney Research UK said: “As a former mental health nurse, I know the importance of providing appropriate psychological help to patients who need it. Kidney disease takes a huge toll on patients’ mental health as treatments are gruelling, and often fraught with multiple additional complications. Kidney patients need access to specialist mental health support from professionals who understand the unique impact of kidney disease and its treatments. Focused care can transform patients’ lives and enable them to live as well as possible with the burden of their physical health condition. We are determined to transform the mental health support offered to patients, by funding research to discover the best possible support, and campaigning for access to these essential services for all.”

The report found that issues with staff capacity and training, a lack of specialised professionals, problems with coordination between healthcare teams, regional discrepancies in approach, and a lack of individualised care all contribute to the barriers kidney patients face accessing effective mental health care.

Andy Bell, chief executive at Centre for Mental Health said: “People living with kidney disease deserve whole person care that responds as much to their emotional wellbeing as their physical health. People have shared their experiences with us for this report and it is clear that no one size fits all. Psychosocial support is not an added extra to good kidney care. It is fundamental to it. And that means offering a range of support that helps people at every age, from all backgrounds, and at all stages of their condition.”

The report has been funded by the Andy Cole Fund, in partnership with Kidney Research UK. Footballing legend Andy Cole has spoken openly about the impact of kidney disease on his own mental health since his diagnosis and subsequent transplant. Improving kidney patients’ mental health through research is one of the founding principles of the Fund.

headshot image of Andy Bell
Andy Bell, chief executive of Centre for Mental Health

Online launch event

An online event attended by patients, healthcare professionals, charities and other stakeholders will launch the report and facilitate discussion into the findings and how to begin to implement its recommendations. Andy Cole will be appearing on the panel at the launch and will be joined by Sandra Currie from Kidney Research UK and Andy Bell from Centre for Mental Health.

Watch the recording from the webinar launch event.

Front cover of the Mental Health Report 2023

Find out more

Read the full report in full; Addressing the mental health challenges of life with kidney disease: The case for change.

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