JUST 2.2 per cent of dialysis patients at Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH) are on home treatment, a report released today suggests.

This is half the UK average (4.4 per cent), and far below the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s advice that 10 per cent to 15 per cent of dialysis patients would opt for home haemodialysis (HHD) if given the choice.

The report from haemodialysis providers NxStage found that HHD patients gain several benefits compared to in-centre patients, including 13 per cent lower risk of death and increased freedom.

Donna Smith, 47, from Tilehurst and now living in Aldermaston, has been on and off dialysis for about 24 years.

She is coming up to six years on HHD, after years of peritoneal dialysis and in-centre haemodialysis treatment, and having a failed kidney transplant.

Donna has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was 10. Her kidneys failed during pregnancy 25 years ago.

She tragically lost two children and was only able to have her son thanks to dialysis.

Before HD, she would spend three days a week at the hospital and could not do anything else on those days.

As soon as the NxStage machines were introduced, Donna put her name on the waiting list.

She self-cared in hospital for six to nine months, learning to put the needles in herself, before the machine was delivered to her home.

She said: “I have not looked back. It is the best type of dialysis for me; I am well on it. I live a much freer life with it. Now I can go about my day like a normal person.

“If I had it when my boy was young…I missed quite a few things because I could not change my dialysis sessions.

“Silly things like assemblies or school plays. At that stage of my life it would have made a big difference.”

Donna uses the NxStage machine five days a week for three hours a day, which is more frequent than in hospital but for a shorter time.

She says this is much better for her long-term health because there are less gaps between use and so toxins do not build up in her system.

63 per cent of in-centre patients spend less time with friends and family, while 52 per cent are not able to go on holiday; they spend an average of £1019 each year on their appointment.

HHD has enabled Donna to go on holiday. She has not been abroad but says she knows people who do.

She said: “I am not waiting at the hospital or for transport to take me there. If I do not want to do it in the morning I am not tied. In hospital you get quite tired afterwards.

“It is much better for younger people because they can have a much more normal lifestyle. The support from RBH and NxStage is amazing. For young people, it would give them a life.”

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), who released new guidelines on renal replacement therapy this month, recommend that all patients suitable for home haemodialysis be offered the choice of home therapy.

NxStage found that 31 per cent of in-centre patients said they were never offered HHD.

Donna now sometimes goes out on the road with NxStage, visiting hospitals in a campervan to talk to people about home dialysis.

She said RBH are doing their best to promote HHD and believes it is up to patients to take the first step.

She added: “I know the staff are trying to push it.

“Maybe people do not like the thought of needling themselves. When I started at home I was petrified. Using it at the hospital first gave me the confidence.”

Derby has the highest uptake in the UK, with 13.2 per cent of dialysis patients on home haemodialysis, three times higher than the national average.

Matt Walker, NxStage Medical UK’s senior business development manager, said: “Dialysis is a life-saving treatment for patients with kidney failure and access to it should not be impacted by differences across NHS trusts, a person’s financial circumstance, or geographical location.

“With the number of people needing dialysis continuing to rise, now is the time for government and healthcare professionals to focus on improving the uptake of home haemodialysis."