Dialysis therapy project secures £40,000 research grant

23 January 2019

People suffering from kidney failure could benefit from a project to help them overcome the psychological impact of their illness and treatment.

The research project involving the University of Derby, the University of Nottingham's School of Medicine, the Royal Derby Hospital and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), has been awarded a £40,000 grant from Kidney Care UK and the British Renal Society to help patients to cope with haemodialysis treatment.

There are an estimated 29,000 people in the UK currently receiving dialysis treatment[1], 25,000 of them having to travel to hospital three times a week for a blood filtration process lasting up to four hours. In addition, many of them have to deal with side effects of the haemodialysis, such as fatigue and heart problems.

The project aims to use a form of therapy known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) for patients for who find it difficult to come to terms with their illness and their dialysis regime. It is designed to help patients accept what is out of their control, and commit to actions that can improve and enrich their lives.

It was originally devised for patients with depression and anxiety, but has also been used to help people with chronic pain and a range of physical conditions to continue to live fulfilling lives.

The research team is made up of health psychologists, Professor James Elander, Carol Stalker and Professor Kathryn Mitchell, of the University of Derby; consultant nephrologists, Professor Maarten Taal and Associate Professor Nick Selby, of the University of Nottingham's School of Medicine; and consultant clinical psychologist, Dr Emma Coyne, at NUH.

Their project will involve around 30 patients at the Royal Derby Hospital to develop a form of ACT which is specific to the needs of dialysis patients.

Professor Elander said: "Dialysis is an expensive, burdensome and demanding treatment. We know that the impact of the treatment, in addition to the effects of the patient's illness, can adversely affect how well patients engage with the treatment programme and how effective it can be.

"What we aim to learn is what the psychological barriers are that prevent some patients from coping with the treatment, as well as positive attitudes and behaviour that currently exist among other patients.

"The objective is to design and deliver a form of ACT which is tailored appropriately to the needs of different patient groups and individuals to maximise the benefits of dialysis and improve patients' experiences of treatment."

Once the process has been agreed, in consultation with patients, it is expected that the therapy will be delivered to patients as they undergo their dialysis treatment in hospital.

Professor Elander added: "We are extremely grateful to the British Renal Society and Kidney Care UK for the grant funding to support this important collaborative programme of research, which we hope will develop practical long-term benefits for dialysis patients."

Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, said: "There is a significant lack of psychosocial support for kidney patients in the UK and so we welcome any advances in research or practice that improves patient care and helps patients live better with kidney disease.

"Dialysis is a demanding treatment and people can find it a struggle to attend their regular sessions, and cope with the restricted diet and fluids, despite knowing that it is helping treat their kidney failure. We are delighted that our joint research partnership with the British Renal Society is supporting this project and look forward to seeing the results from the teams at Derby and Nottingham."

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[1] Figure provided by Kidney Care UK