On 25 November 2020, a second virtual conference was held for people with kidney disease in Wales. Chaired by Caron Jones, Renal Social Worker from Wrexham Maelor, the conference offered guidance from experts in psychology, exercise and diet on how to keep well over winter.


Dr Catherine O’Leary, Renal Clinical Psychologist at Cardiff & Vale University Health Board explained how our emotional system works, with the three elements of threat, drive and sooth. These elements can become out of balance during the Christmas period. Offering reassurance that it’s ‘okay to not be okay’, Catherine gave some tips for self-soothing to help reduce the intensity of negative emotions and re-charge our batteries.


Hayleigh Isaac, Support Services Coordinator at Paul Popham Renal Fund Wales, works alongside the NHS Psychology service to manage the Peer Support Service, a programme delivered by volunteers with lived experience of kidney disease. The volunteers also operate the Careline telephone support service, which is open 9-6pm, seven days a week, and support groups meet monthly for transplant recipients, home therapies patients, parents and carers, and those who are pre-dialysis with CKD.


Clare Weekes, Physiotherapist at Swansea Bay University Health Board, motivated participants with tips to help us keep moving our bodies over winter, in order to keep well, warm and connected – with added inspiration to get outdoors from Geraint John, a Peer Mentor and Walk Leader!

Harriet Williams, Head of Dietetics at the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, concluded with advice about how to eat well to keep well over winter, emphasising that dietary advice is different for every kidney patient based on the stage of disease, other health conditions such as diabetes, treatments and food preferences. Harriet offered guidance on making positive food choices over the festive period, including these appetising festive recipes from Kidney Care UK’s ‘Kidney Kitchen’


With the recent announcement of positive developments with COVID vaccines, participants raised questions about the suitability of vaccines for transplant recipients and whether people classed as ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ would be a priority for vaccination. There are approximately 200 vaccines currently undergoing trials.  The Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford vaccines are indicating promising results but no vaccines have yet been approved for widespread use.  The Pfizer vaccine is ‘live’, but some of the other vaccines undergoing trials are not. We expect the vaccine will be able to be used in all groups, including all kidney patients. The vaccines will only be recommended for widespread use if scientists and your healthcare team are confident they are safe to use for you, as a kidney patient.

The vaccines have not been tested specifically on transplant recipients, so we can’t say for certain how effective they will be but it is expected there will still be benefit in transplant patients having the vaccine.   The Oxford trial is giving positive indications that effectiveness does not diminish in people with weaker immune systems. Governments are aiming to vaccinate a high percentage of the population to provide herd immunity, that will protect us all – even those who have no immunity to the virus.

Wales is part of the UK-wide procurement of several different types of vaccines, and will get a share for deployment if approved by the regulators. There will only be small amounts of a vaccine at first and the roll out of the vaccine will be guided by the recommendations for prioritisation: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-advice-from-the-jcvi-25-september-2020/jcvi-updated-interim-advice-on-priority-groups-for-covid-19vaccination .

Read more in Kidney Wales’ Q&A on COVID vaccines.

For the time being, we must continue to avoid getting Coronavirus by following these tips:



Stay safe and well this winter – we are working towards a brighter 2021.


Download the recording and report of the kidney patient conference


This virtual conference is brought to you as a collaboration between three leading kidney patient support charities: Kidney Care UK, Kidney Wales and the Paul Popham Fund Renal Support Wales.