Kidney Care UK, Kidney Wales and the Paul Popham Fund have written to the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Care, Vaughan Gething AM, to express concerns that more than 1500 dialysis patients have not been sent a letter from the NHS advising them to shield.

All kidney transplant patients have been advised to shield on the grounds that they take immunosuppression medication. Other people with kidney disease, taking specific medication, may also have been advised to shield. Many dialysis patients have been concerned that they had not received a shielding letter from Public Health Wales. Through enquiries the charities learned last week that in the main, dialysis patients did not fall within the scope of the criteria used by Welsh Government and Public Health Wales to classify extremely vulnerable groups.

The charities have received enquiries from very concerned dialysis patients and their families, asking for clarification about whether they are considered as an extremely vulnerable group, if they should take shielding measures and if they are able to access services available to those within the extremely vulnerable groups within their communities. Some patients and staff are also extremely anxious that insufficient measures are being taken to protect them in dialysis units as supply of PPE at dialysis units is patchy.

Some of our most isolated patients face very real challenges in accessing food and essential supplies as they do not qualify for support as an ‘extremely vulnerable’ group. For others, a lack of this status means they are not able to demonstrate to their employer that medical advice has been given to shield, and they are therefore not able to qualify for a wage subsidy as a furloughed worker and may be given on statutory minimum sick pay, resulting in financial hardship.

A response to our letter to the Health Minister was received and it confirmed the following advice for dialysis patients:

The categories of patients deemed to be at high risk have been agreed at a UK-wide level following expert advice and a letter has been sent by the NHS to many of these patients to set out what measures they need to take in order to shield.

People with severe single organ disease, including kidney failure, who have spent time in intensive care during the last three years, should have already been sent a letter to advise them to shield.

If you are a dialysis patient who has NOT spent time in intensive care in the last three years, and your consultant feels that you need to shield, they will ask your GP to arrange for a letter to be sent to you from the NHS to explain what you need to do. These letters are still in the process of being sent.

If you have received a letter from the NHS advising you to shield on medical grounds, you will be able to access additional support, including a free food box, from your local authority and supermarkets.

If your consultant does not feel that you need to shield you will not receive a letter and should continue to stringently follow social distancing guidance. If you need support, call your local authority or local COVID 19 Aid group.

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss your individual concerns: ; 029 2034 3940