On 2 September 2020, a virtual conference for Welsh kidney patients created a space to share expert information and insight as we try to find our way in a post-COVID ‘new normal’.

Two speakers, Fiona Loud, Policy Director at Kidney Care UK, and Dr Mike Stephens, Consultant Transplant Surgeon at the University Hospital of Wales, delivered presentations and answered questions from participants.

Fiona referenced the findings of Kidney Care UK’s ‘Worried Sick’ survey [DOWNLOAD WELSH REPORT – HERE], about the impact of COVID on kidney patients, which revealed:

• Difficulties with shielding in practice
• Negative effects on mental health and well-being
• Disruption to treatments
• Problems with accessing basic food and medicines
• Effects on household finances

As we move forwards, Fiona emphasised the importance of:

• Getting personalised advice and support from the NHS for your condition and how to best protect yourself
• Addressing physical and mental health needs– both are vitally important
• Having clear communication from government to shielding groups
• Ensuring continued access to food and medication
• Understanding what future local lockdowns might mean for shielding groups

Dr Mike Stephens provided information about the specific considerations for kidney patients in relation to COVID, with more detail for people who have received or are waiting for a transplant and when it may be advisable to self-isolate.  He offered generalised advice regarding measures around returning to the work place (IF you’re not able to work from home) and to school, and referred to the tools available from the Renal Association to assess levels of risk for different types of people for different activities, to help you make informed decisions about your lifestyle. Mike also spoke about progress with developing a vaccine.  But in the meantime, both speakers emphasised the need to remain vigilant with social distancing and hygiene practices, while we begin to build confidence in a post-COVID world.

Feedback from kidney patients has been very positive with comments such as:

“Thank you for arranging the conference. It was really informative and good to know the various groups are working together to fight for those of us with kidney disease/ transplants. Thanks as well to Mike Stephens – as always clear, concise and practical!    ”

“It was excellent looking forward to more”.

This virtual conference was delivered for the first-time, as a collaboration between three leading kidney patient support charities: Kidney Care UK, Kidney Wales and the Paul Popham Fund Renal Support Wales.  We are actively seeking ideas from patients for topics for future conferences.

View a recording of the session or read the conference report here: http://kidneypatientconference.wales/