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How important is peer support for patients new to dialysis or transplantation?

28 July 2023

Dr Anna Winterbottom from St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, has received a Kidney Research UK-Stoneygate Award of £48,000 to study the role of peer support in helping patients adjust to dialysis and transplant.

The problem

People on dialysis and those receiving a transplant must adopt new routines and restrictions into their daily lives. For example, haemodialysis sessions last for several hours three to four times a week, and people who have received a kidney transplant must take medications to stop their body rejecting the new kidney. . This can be challenging and people’s experiences of treatment are sometimes different to those they anticipated. People Individuals with kidney disease require information and support to help them cope and adjust to their illness and treatments, questions remain about the best way to provide this.   

Dr Anna Winterbottom
Dr Anna Winterbottom

The solution

Dr Winterbottom and team want to learn more about the role of people with lived experience in helping individuals who are new to dialysis or living with a kidney transplant; this is known as ‘peer support’.

Although healthcare professionals help to prepare patients, speaking to someone who has experienced dialysis or transplant can be invaluable. Using interviews and questionnaires, the research team will gain a deeper understanding of the role of peer support in helping people cope and adjust to kidney disease and its treatments. In particular, Dr Winterbottom will investigate whether matching people with peer supporters of the same ethnicity leads to better outcomes. 

"Talking to other people who are in a similar situation to us can be beneficial and shares understanding, knowledge and provides reassurance. Sharing experiences of having kidney disease, known as peer support, is an increasingly popular method for supporting people at diagnosis, when making treatment decisions and in coping with long term treatments. This grant award will help us gain more understanding of how, why and in what circumstances peer support might be most beneficial to people living with kidney disease. We hope this study will improve people’s experience of kidney disease by helping kidney units improve the quality of peer support that they provide."

What this means for kidney patients

Dr Winterbottom’s team will use the results of this study to write guidance documents to standardise peer support in UK renal units, ensuring consistent, high-quality help and advice for all patients. 

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