What we did last year to...
Rally together for change.
Our challenge is to wake the world up to kidney disease. We’re uniting the kidney community around our common goals, doing more than ever to get kidney disease on the political agenda and campaigning for better kidney healthcare and investment in research.
Getting our voice heard
We established our first in-house policy unit; a team of skilled staff dedicated to pushing kidney disease and kidney research up the national agenda.
Within a few months, we had spoken at a parliamentary roundtable on home dialysis and secured seats in several influential coalitions, including the Inequalities in Health Alliance (England) and Voluntary Health Scotland. We now attend the All-Party Parliamentary Kidney Group alongside MPs and have met with several key political figures, including the Minister for Vaccines and the Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
In Scotland we met with parliamentarians of black and minority ethnic heritage. This prompted them to table a motion in Holyrood to raise awareness of kidney disease among the chamber.
Addressing the mental health toll
Kidney disease takes a heavy toll on people’s mental health. It’s an issue that footballing legend and Kidney Research UK ambassador Andy Cole is passionate about. That’s why improving patient wellbeing is a key objective of the Andy Cole Fund, which we launched together in 2020.
The fund, which featured in a BBC Radio 4 appeal, raised over £41,000 in 2021/22, with more funds pledged. We directed some of this to campaigning for better access to specialist mental health support as part of routine kidney care. On World Kidney Day we targeted politicians with the findings of our survey of over 1,000 kidney patients:
- 67% had experienced symptoms of depression since their kidney diagnosis
- 27% said they had considered self-harm or suicide
- 68% said they had not been offered any mental health support.
Mental health is so important that it was also the focus of our first Kidney Conversations, a new series of online discussion events attended by around 400 people last year. Andy Cole shared his personal story of struggling with mental health due to his kidney condition, while researcher Dr Joe Chilcot gave insights into the latest studies on the psychological impact of kidney disease.
Making people kidney aware
Waking the world up to kidney disease and kidney health is crucial. Evidence suggests we’re starting to make progress – for instance our website users are up by 50% year-on-year – but there is so much more to do.
On World Kidney Day we worked as part of Kidney Charities Together to publicise the stark truth that 1 in 10 people worldwide have kidney disease. In parallel, we shared the results of our survey of over 2,000 UK adults, which showed a shocking lack of public understanding about the importance of the kidneys. Most worrying was that 6 in 10 of those with a major contributing factor for kidney disease did not think they were at risk.
For the first time, we tested a new approach to raising awareness by trialling a TV advertising campaign in certain postcodes, driving people to our kidney health check. We will be reviewing the results and using them to inform future work in this area.
#TeamKidney inspiring communities
Our volunteer programme has gone from strength-to-strength thanks to extraordinary individuals who are happy to give their time to support our work. We welcomed 78 new community ambassadors to the charity, people who are becoming the face and voice of Kidney Research UK in their area.
Our peer educator programme – volunteers committed to making a difference to kidney health in their own communities – continues to flourish in Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government and driven by volunteers, the team engaged with around 900 people.
In the north of England, the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation began working with us and our peer educators to engage people from groups often under-represented in clinical kidney research. Specifically, this involves people living in deprived areas of Salford, Pakistani communities in Oldham and Bangladeshi communities in Rochdale. Our volunteers – who are part of these communities themselves – are encouraging participation by helping to break down misconceptions and fears about what taking part in research is like. It is only by ensuring diversity in research that we can be sure discoveries will benefit everyone.
Every research discovery, every new advance, each person we inspire to ‘think kidney’ – none of this would be possible without our supporters who give their time, money and voice to our mission to end kidney disease.
We continued to expand the ways in which people can get involved: our first online auction raised over £10,000, while our online Christmas appeal raised £50,000. These joined the wide variety of ways you choose to support us, from playing our lottery to sponsored skydives, to our Step challenges, to remembering us in memory of a loved one. It was particularly wonderful to meet supporters as face-to-face fundraisers returned, such as the London Marathon and our golf day.
The generosity of families and trusts helped us re-launch our research programme.