Wales is facing one of its biggest public health threats for decades as new figures reveal that the number of people waiting for kidney transplants in Wales has risen by 51.7% in the last six years, compared to a 44.6% rise across the UK.

In 2001 284 people in Wales were waiting for a kidney transplant, but by the end of 2007 there were 431 on the transplant list. Yet, because of the shortage of organs, just 89 transplants were carried out last year.

Up to 10,000 people in Wales are now suffering from some form of chronic kidney disease and numbers are increasing due to rising levels of diabetes, heart disease and an ageing population. Last year alone, doctors saw a 16% increase on the previous year in the number joining the transplant waiting list, while hundreds more need dialysis to stay alive.

The worrying figures come on the third anniversary of World Kidney Day (March 13th 2008). The event, which will be marked in 60 countries including Wales, aims to raise awareness about the growing threat of chronic kidney disease to public health.

According to the International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF) chronic, non-communicable diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and kidney disease have replaced communicable diseases as the leading threat to public health and healthcare budgets.

Deaths claimed by infectious diseases will decline by 3% over the next decade. In marked contrast, deaths as a result of chronic diseases will increase by 17%.

Allison John of the Kidney Wales Foundation says better prevention and early detection is needed in Wales, including screening for at all at risk groups. More people also need to join the organ donor register as a matter of urgency.

These figures are shocking and reveal the public health threat we are facing in Wales, she said. They are especially worrying as the numbers diagnosed with renal failure are likely to increase dramatically again over the next decade with the rise in obesity and the linked problems of diabetes and heart disease.

There is also a desperate shortage of donors in Wales and sadly since 2003 more than 100 people have died before getting that second chance a kidney transplant could have given them.

Roy J Thomas, chairman of the Kidney Wales Foundation said: Health Minister Edwina Hart has shown her commitment to improving renal services in Wales and we welcome her leadership in trying to improve the lives of kidney patients. We are joining with the Government to create a world class renal service in Wales but it is a long road and there is still much to be done to tackle chronic ill health.

The costs of kidney failure (end-stage renal disease) are escalating and worldwide, over 1.5 million people are currently kept alive through either haemo or peritoneal dialysis or transplantation. This number is forecasted to double within the next 10 years.

You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by contacting the Organ Donor Line on 0845 60 60 400 or by visiting the organ donation section at www.kidneywales.com

For details about World Kidney Day log on to www.worldkidneyday.org