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Kidney disease in people from minority ethnic groups

Kidney failure is up to five times more common in people from minority ethnic groups.

It’s not yet fully understood why minority ethnic groups are more at risk of kidney disease but it could be due in part to high rates of diabetes and high blood pressure in these racial groups, as these are the most common causes of kidney failure.

Around twice as many Asian people with type 1 diabetes need dialysis or a transplant (therefore experience kidney failure) compared to white patients.

Greater need for kidney transplantation

People from minority ethnic groups are more likely to need a kidney transplant, but less likely to receive one due to a shortage of donors.

Tissue and blood types need to match for a successful transplant. And although many minority ethnic group patients are able to receive a transplant from a white donor, for many the best match will come from a donor from the same ethnic background.

  • A third of people (35 per cent) waiting for a kidney across the UK are from minority ethnic groups but in 2017/18, of those providing their ethnicity when registering on the NHS Organ Donor Register, only 3.3 per cent were Asian, 1 per cent were black and 2 per cent were mixed race.
  • Only 28 per cent of UK kidney transplants in 2017/18 were in minority ethnic groups.
  • There is a longer waiting time for kidney transplants for black and Asian patients compared to white patients (with and average wait of approx. 2.5 years compared to an average 2 year wait for a white patient).

*Figures taken from the NHS Blood and Transplant BAME Supplementary Report 2017-18.

The shortage of donors among this group is critical.


Potential barriers

Religious beliefs, cultural differences, language and mistrust may be barriers to discussions surrounding medical conditions, treatment choices and available care. Organ donation can often be a taboo subject, largely due to religious and/or cultural misconceptions surrounding the issue.

Addressing the problem

Kidney Research UK has been running highly successful peer educator projects with people from minority ethnic groups across the UK for over ten years. Recruited and trained by the charity, peer educators are people who work closely with individuals, families, community groups and faith groups in their own communities.

They offer practical help and advice, explaining potential reasons for increased risk and suggesting lifestyle changes that could help to prevent disease. They also outline treatments available for people with kidney failure and discuss organ donation.

Peer educators have been able to offer advice and support to many thousands of people from minority ethnic groups and have encouraged thousands of people from these groups to join the NHS Organ donor Register.

Help for you

Make an appointment to see your GP if you think you might be at risk of kidney disease or have any of the symptoms associated with possible kidney problems (including blood in your urine). You can find lots of helpful tips and advice about planning your visit, including what questions to ask, in our visiting your doctor section.

The need for more research

More research is needed on why ethnic background or genetic make-up affect the risk of someone developing kidney failure. We also need more research on how to improve kidney donation rates amongst people from minority ethnic groups.

Join our research network

Join our Kidney Voices for Research network and get involved in the latest research into the causes and treatments of kidney disease.

Patient stories

Maz Ali

"Even if my work encourages one person to sign up to the organ donor register, and make someone’s life better, I will feel like I have helped achieve something"

Maz Ali

Our life-saving research is only possible with your support.

Save lives.

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