Dialysis Care Outcomes — [Sir George Howarth in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:00 pm on 19th May 2022.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 3:00 pm, 19th May 2022

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered dialysis care outcomes.

I thank you for chairing this debate, Sir George, and thank those who are here to participate—they are colleagues, but also friends. I am pleased to see the shadow Minister, Feryal Clark, in her place and am especially pleased to see the Minister in her place, too. I am not being condescending when I say that; I am encouraged because the Minister understands the issues very well. I look forward to her response—no pressure, Minister. We are pleased to have this opportunity.

I thank our guests in the Gallery, particularly Fiona Loud, who has been instrumental, through me, in achieving this Westminster Hall debate. I thank the Backbench Business Committee for allowing the debate. I applied for it some time ago, but the Queen’s Speech meant that those applications to the Committee fell. It was originally supposed to take place on the Thursday before recess, but we are having it at the same time, 3 o’clock, as it would have happened on that day.

Dialysis is an important issue to raise, especially at this time of rising daily costs that directly impact people who choose to receive their treatment in their own home. In a question to the Prime Minister yesterday, Keir Starmer referred to Phoenix Halliwell and the cost for those receiving dialysis treatment at home. There might have been a bit of confusion around how the question was asked and how the answer came through—I know that others will speak to that—but it pinpoints a key issue for this debate, which is the impact of the cost of electric and energy on people receiving dialysis treatment at home. That is of particular concern to me and others at this time of rising costs. There are global pressures on the price of energy. This is not a debate on energy, but on what is happening to those who have dialysis treatment.

It is not just adults who are affected by this issue. Fiona and I spoke to the Minister beforehand; we appreciate that very much. It seems that not every postcode covers children. Local providers have discretion as to whether they reimburse the utility costs for children. I know that Fiona, who I spoke to beforehand, is concerned about that, and I certainly am. One person who contacted us said that her son has been on peritoneal dialysis since January. It used to cost £115 per month for combined usage, but it is now up to £350—a massive increase of 220%.

Although this debate covers a health issue, it also focuses on the predicaments of those people in the health system. We need to review that and think about it again, so that we can understand it better. It is important for those we are concerned about that we understand where the pressures are—financial pressures are coming from all sides.

Others will refer to this, but even on the warmest day of the year—we experienced the highest temperature of the year on Wednesday—a person receiving dialysis will feel cold. Cold weather puts even greater pressures on household energy costs, but people who receive dialysis at home are being very adversely affected by rising fuel and heating costs. I will refer to that later, but I wanted to put those two issues on the record. They have been brought to my attention and are of deep concern.

I know that this is not the Minister’s responsibility, but I will give some facts from Northern Ireland, where attempts are made for every patient to be given approval to receive dialysis at home at first. It does not always happen, because sometimes patients are sent to the renal department at the Ulster Hospital, which is my nearest hospital and which I have visited on a number of occasions over the years.

Analysis by the UK Renal Registry showed the rate of home dialysis in areas of deprivation at the end of 2020. Unfortunately, however, there was no data available for patients treated in Scotland. My colleagues and friends from Scotland may have some figures. Overall, the rate of home therapy was lower for patients from the more deprived areas of England, Northern Ireland and Wales. In England, 22.9% of patients in the least deprived areas were able to access home dialysis, compared with 15% in the most deprived areas. The rate of home dialysis for patients in Northern Ireland was 7.2% in the least deprived areas, whereas it was 9.8% in the most deprived areas. I am alarmed at these figures. If someone has a certain amount of income, it means that they have to pay for their energy. However, someone who is deprived is under pressure to ensure that the energy, electric and heating levels in their house are at a certain level, so the impact on those in deprived areas is much greater than it is anywhere else.

Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are affected by renal failure in the same way as anybody else, but they do not have equal access to home dialysis and the freedom that that choice offers. I look to the Minister, as I always do, for a positive response on how we can take things forward constructively in a way that can deliver for dialysis treatment patients across this great United Kingdom. We need to address this issue on a UK-wide basis, and greater equality must be achieved. I am my party’s health spokesperson, so it is always a pleasure to speak in these debates and to highlight issues that are brought to my attention by people such as my friend Fiona Loud from Kidney Care UK.

Kidney disease costs the NHS more than breast, lung, colon and skin cancer combined. It has a greater financial impact. It is estimated to cost £1.4 billion a year—equivalent to £1 in every £77 of NHS expenditure. That is a massive figure and a significant expense, with 21 people developing kidney failure every day and almost 30,000 people on dialysis in the UK. Unfortunately, it shows no signs of slowing.