Now, a team of researchers funded by Peterborough charity Kidney Research UK are looking into the mental health support available at more than 70 renal services across the country to gather evidence on how to best support patients.
Huntingdon-based psychologist Dr Joe Chilcot and a team at King’s College London, with the University of Hertfordshire, are investigating the most effective mental health assessment and treatment pathways currently available and how these vary across the UK.
They will then write evidence-based guidelines to support improved mental health services for kidney patients at renal centres in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The research is being funded with a project grant of £220,000 from Kidney Research UK.
Dr Chilcot said: “Our work will look at treatments options for kidney patients like talking therapies including cognitive behaviour therapy and medications. We will interview staff and patients and also look at all the published scientific evidence.
“The majority of renal services have teams that deal with the psychological side of kidney disease, who do an incredible job. However, the size and provision of these teams varies significantly.
“Often psychosocial support, whilst essential, is not well resourced to meet the challenges many people living with kidney disease face. We aim to understand how care is currently provided and determine what is working most successfully.
“Once we have gathered all the evidence we will draw up guidelines for the detection and management of depression and anxiety among kidney patients.”
There are currently no specific guidelines on how to support the mental wellbeing of kidney patients.
Dr Chilcot and his team have looked at the published scientific literature into the mental health of kidney patients. Next, they will survey staff and patients. It is hoped the project will be complete by 2023.
The prevalence of depression in kidney patients is thought to be much higher than in the general population and could be as high as one in three suffering.
Dr Chilcot was inspired to begin the research after discovering plenty of evidence on the mental health impact of long-term illnesses like cardiac problems and diabetes, but comparably very little for chronic kidney disease.
“There are many physical health and social challenges people face when they live with kidney disease, including dialysis, symptom burden, impact on employment, fears around a transplant match and fears also about transplant failure - so it is no surprise to find that people’s mental health is impacted,” he said.
“There is a huge appetite for more research in this area at the moment. We are at a critical point where there is a lot of momentum in trying to better understand and support people’s mental health. The importance of mental health has been recognised for some time, but it is fair to say that Covid-19 has certainly focused this attention further.
“We hope that research like this encourages conversations around mental health and how it is good to talk. The goal is to improve people’s quality of life.”
Dr Aisling McMahon, executive director: research, innovation and policy at Kidney Research UK, said: “We made a commitment with the Centre for Mental Health to work together to highlight this area of significant unmet need in the treatment of kidney patients.
“Joe’s work is a really important first step as it will provide a much-needed comprehensive analysis of current mental health services for kidney patients in the UK and raise awareness of the problems people face.
“We anticipate this evidence will be used to transform mental health treatments for kidney patients so they can receive correctly tailored mental health support.”