I am just writing a short blog to deliver some really nice news. We have been looking at how to get complementary therapy onto all 5 of our dialysis units as part of the patient experience quality improvement work. Wigan renal unit has some experience going back over many years of offering this. I can remember when we started the first pilot there around 2007. We did a survey to see how people felt about it. I remember one of the older gentlemen when asked if he wanted to try massage, telling me in a somewhat affronted way “Doctor I have never been touched by another women in my life!” Although there was a high degree of scepticism about having massage or reflexology on dialysis before we started, within a couple of weeks we found that patients really appreciated it. More than half the patients at Wigan went on to try it and in fact we could never provide enough to meet the demand. I suppose when you think about symptoms that patients can have with dialysis it is not surprising it was so popular. Patients can report that dialysing for 12 hours per week is “boring” and “lonely” and that they get stiff and uncomfortable on the chairs and afraid to move in case the machines alarm. Some people also get restless legs and cramps during dialysis. As a dialysis patient, you may have skin problems partly due to the way toxins that build up in kidney failure affect skin, partly due to fluid restriction and other background conditions like poor circulation and diabetes. Over time we showed that complementary therapy is a safe practice on a dialysis unit and really highly valued by patients.
So during our Patient Experience Collaborative improvement project we have been looking at how to try and get therapists on all 5 of our units. We specifically tested advertising for trained therapists with the support of the volunteer bureau at Salford Royal. Unfortunately this did not yield enough success to get the kind of cover we were hoping for (although we are very grateful to the couple of therapists that have started at Bolton and Salford in recent weeks and hope that they will stay with us for some time). The next strategy that we had was to apply for some funding to try and set up a program in a more robust way. Many years ago we had visited Christies who have a long-standing complementary therapy program to try and understand how they did it. We saw that it was delivered mainly by volunteers and they always had enough people applying and even a queue of people waiting because it was such a rewarding voluntary work to do.
We were absolutely delighted this week to hear that an application to the British Kidney Patients Association for money to hire a complementary therapy practitioner to train local volunteers in complementary therapy for dialysis patients was successful.
The British Kidney Patient Association is the biggest UK Kidney charity offering grant aid and information (via www.infokid.org.uk). If you haven’t heard of them, its worth checking them out – they offer free counselling and support by phone on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s on 01420 541424 as well as grants for patients and families, covering things like domestic bills, purchase of domestic goods such as washing machines, university or college fees and holidays for patient’s and their families. More info is available at http://www.britishkidney-pa.co.uk/
So this fantastic grant is just the boost we need to develop the volunteer program to cover all 408 of our haemodialysis patients, (and hopefully carers and families with things like pamper days), over the next 2.5 years.
Watch out for developments on your renal units soon and we will be blogging again to keep you updated when we have somebody in post.
Dr Janet Hegarty
Consultant in Kidney Medicine