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£70 million investment is transforming the care of dialysis patients

Image shows a group of people gathered around a dialysis machine.

A £70 million investment will transform the care of hundreds of dialysis patients from Bridgend to Aberystwyth over the next 10 years.

Renal services are provided by Swansea Bay for people in its own area as well as those in Hywel Dda and Cwm Taf Morgannwg health boards.

Existing services include two haemodialysis units at Morriston Hospital – which receives patients from Swansea, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend –and one each in Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Haverfordwest.

Main pic above (l-r): renal directorate manager Sarah Siddell; head of renal technical services Andrew Cooper; operational support manager Bethan Davies; senior project manager Nicola Henwood (seated) and clinical director Dr Clare Parker.

However, the number of people requiring haemodialysis is growing year on year, to the point where Morriston is vastly exceeding capacity. This means patients are having to dialyse in the evenings.

The renal team at Swansea Bay, with support from the Welsh Kidney Network, is transforming the service for haemodialysis patients as well as futureproofing it with numbers continuing to expand.

Funding for the £70 million service improvements is coming from the Welsh Health Specialist Services Committee. This ensures fair access to a full range of specialist services for the population of Wales.

The investment includes improvements to the five existing dialysis units, including new dialysis machines and other equipment and facilities, and the creation of two new ones in Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend.

This will allow patients from those areas to be cared for closer to home. Crucially, it will also ease the pressure on Morriston and largely eliminate the need for evening dialysis sessions.

Image shows a doctor standing next to clinical equipment. Clinical director Dr Clare Parker said patients requiring dialysis but who live in Neath Port Talbot or Bridgend and cannot dialyse at home currently travel to the dialysis units at Morriston hospital.

Some of the Bridgend patients are referred to the Cardiff renal team for dialysis in Llantrisant.

“Due to increasing demand on capacity at Morriston, we have had to dialyse patients in the evening on a twilight dialysis shift,” said Dr Parker (right).

“Those patients start their treatment around 5pm and do not finish treatment until 10pm or later.

“There are a few patients who choose to have twilight dialysis because they have work or studying during the day or because it suits them for some other reason such as childcare.

“But the vast majority of patients would prefer to do their dialysis during the day when there is a full complement of staff including doctors, nurses, dietitians, and other members of the wider multidisciplinary renal team who are more easily available.”

Proposals have been unveiled for two new dialysis units for patients living in the Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend areas.

One is in a former gym in the Brackla area of Bridgend, with a planning application submitted to Bridgend Council earlier this year.

Subject to approval, the unit will open towards the end of this year and be run on behalf of Swansea Bay University Health Board by Fresenius Medical Care, which already operates the three West Wales units.

It will include 21 dialysis stations with a maximum capacity of 84 patients to allow for future increased demand – all of them dialysing by day.

Swansea Bay’s renal team and Fresenius Medical Care are also working together on plans for the new unit for Neath Port Talbot, due to open sometime next year.

As Neath Port Talbot has a larger population, the proposal is for 27 stations with a maximum capacity of 108 patients. It will also have a bespoke training area for nurses who teach people to dialyse at home.

“Patients at both units will enjoy state of the art facilities but will remain under the care of the same NHS clinical team that looks after all dialysis patients in South West Wales,” said Dr Parker.

“The facilities and nursing staff will be provided by Fresenius Medical Care, which has an excellent international reputation for providing dialysis alongside the NHS.

“The new units will free up capacity in Morriston so we can dispense with evening dialysis, except for a very small number who choose to continue it because of their personal circumstances. It’s much better for everyone.”

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