Suspending kidney transplants will see organs wasted, says man on waiting list

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The temporary halt in kidney transplant operations taking place will result in missed opportunities as organs are “wasted”, said a man waiting on the transplant list.

Earlier this week, the University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Trust announced a 14-day pause to kidney transplants as its doctors and nurses struggled to cope with a surge in Covid-19 patients

Ian Matthews, 49, from Shropshire, and who has been waiting for a kidney for almost 18 months, told the PA news agency: “There is a feeling of missed opportunities.

“Every day there are kidneys that will become available when people sadly pass away, but people who could have had a transplant won’t be able to get one now.

Mr Matthews has been waiting for a transplant for 18 months (Ian Matthews)

“You wonder how long they are going to have to suspend them for if they are suspending them now. I don’t think we have seen the worst of what is going to hit the NHS yet.”

Mr Matthews was originally scheduled for a transplant in the autumn. However, when the organ was removed it was found to be too damaged to use.

He now has peritoneal dialysis overnight every night at home while he waits for another kidney to become available.

The UHB trust said it was having to “significantly” scale up in-patient and critical care capacity, in a bid to avoid being “overwhelmed” by coronavirus admissions.

The father-of-three said: “People are dying, what are they going to do? The NHS is in triage situation and I myself, I am quite ill but not dying today and they have got to take care of people who are, that’s just how it is.

“But if the capacity was there within the system, then those hard choices wouldn’t need to be made in the way they are having to be made.”

Mr Matthews has been living with kidney disease for a decade and is currently shielding. He said he has not left his home, apart from exercise, since the start of the November lockdown.

“I feel angry at the Government for allowing the NHS to get into a situation where there seems to be no planning or preparation for an increased burden,” he said.

“There is no slack in the system at all, there is limited funding to the point where as soon as a pandemic like this hit, there was no capacity to absorb it within the system other than taking resources from other areas.”

He said a kidney would mean the chance to have a “normal family life”, with wife Ruth and his three children, aged 23, 19 and 14. Although most people can remain on dialysis for years the treatment can only partially compensate for the loss of kidney function.

He said: “It is frustrating, and it’s really disappointing. I just want a kidney as soon as possible but I also know there are people suffering with cancer and miscarriages and all kinds of things where the trauma they are experiencing is far, far worse.

“I can deal with it and I am fortunate, but it’s the thought of people who could be having transplants. I think of people who are struggling for liver transplants and they are far more serious.

“With kidney disease, life gets really inconvenient, but you can survive.”

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which oversees transplantation and organ donation across the UK, said it was working with regional centres to “ensure no opportunity for transplant is missed”.

It said transplants “continue to be a priority across the NHS”.

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