Dialysis equipment shortage as procurement official urges care on NHS reopening

Concerns have been raised about a shortage of dialysis equipment as a procurement official warned against making predictions on when the NHS will resume elective work.

Trust leaders have expressed worries over a lack of equipment needed to support people with kidney conditions as supplies are used during the pandemic.

The Renal Association UK, a professional body representing kidney specialists in the UK, has highlighted a shortage of sterile tubing and electrolyte fluid bags used for dialysis in intensive care units.

Professor Indranil Dasgupta, consultant nephrologist and honorary secretary of the group, told the PA news agency: “We are seeing an unexpectedly high number of patients with acute kidney injury with Covid-19 who are in the ICU for ventilation.

Kidney dialysis research
Thousands of people receive dialysis in the UK (Lewis Whyld/PA)

“While it mainly affects the lungs, totally unexpectedly, a third of patients also need kidney support.

“This is, of course, an overwhelming situation because these people need continual fragile dialysis.

“As a result, there is not only a shortage of the specialised machines but also the replacement fluid and the disposable plastic tubing.”

However, he added that while stocks of equipment used to deliver constant dialysis in an ICU were critically low, there were no concerns about stocks of equipment used for outpatient dialysis used by patients with chronic kidney diseases.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers which represents NHS trusts, said trust leaders had raised concerns about a shortage of machines.

He said: “The growing concerns about a shortage of specialist dialysis machines is the latest challenge that trust leaders are now working hard to address.

“To put this into context, over the last few weeks trusts across the country have successfully responded to the need to increase capacity, ventilator numbers, oxygen and PPE.

“Trust leaders are now working closely with the centre (NHS England) to respond to this growing issue and it is absolutely being treated as a priority.”

The latest equipment shortages come as a second senior procurement official warned care will be needed when reopening the NHS.

Elective procedures have been cancelled to increase NHS capacity to manage the pandemic.

NHS Providers deputy chief executive Saffron Cordery said that discussions on resuming pre-pandemic service were important to have, but warned against making predictions as to when the NHS would reopen fully.

She said: “It is quite right that minds are already turning to how we resume normal service for patients, including restarting of routine elective surgery and more broadly services in the community.

“However, we are still very much dealing with the coronavirus outbreak and caring for a significant number of patients. The NHS will need a planned and staged return to operating all services at full capacity.”

Ms Cordery added: “It’s impossible to know how long this will go on for, but trust leaders and the national teams are turning their thoughts to moving back the service back into normal service.

“We should not make any predictions.”

She went on to stress that those who require essential care, including for heart attacks, stroke, cancer and mental health, should continue to seek it.

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