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Access to kidney transplants 'varies widely across UK'

An organ donation manager has welcomed a study that reveals wide differences in kidney patients’ access to life-saving organs.

James Neuberger, associate medical director of organ donation and transplantation at NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), said renal centres should “take note” of the study, which found large variations across the UK that could not be explained by health reasons.

Mr Neuberger said although there had been a 40% increase in the number of kidney transplants taking place in the UK in the past five years, geographical variations should be a matter of concern for renal centres.

“We encourage renal centres to take note of its findings so as to help bring about further improvement in care, treatment and equity,” he said.

“NHSBT is committed to ensuring there is equity of access to transplantation of all organs, regardless of various factors such as the patient’s age, gender or ethnicity, and our policies are continuously reviewed to ensure they are appropriate and up to date.”

The study, carried out by NHSBT and UK Renal Registry and published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), looked at 16,202 dialysis patients at 65 renal centres across the UK to build up an accurate picture of which patients received transplants and the length of time they were kept on the transplant list.

While there are currently 6,865 adults needing kidney transplants in the UK, priority is given to children who wait on average 164 days to receive their new organ.

One reason cited as a possible cause for the variations is the severity of the illness, with some patients falling off the list if they become too ill. However, they can be placed back on to the list if their health improves sufficiently.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We want the NHS to use this research to help deliver better access to transplants and further improve the quality of care for kidney patients.”

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