Diabetes fuelling kidney disease timebomb as transplant list at a high (2024)

Spirallingdiabetes levels are fuelling a crisis in kidney health with the highest number in a decade awaiting transplants, a charity has warned.

NHS figures released today show 6,250 people are waiting for a kidney— 10 per cent more than a year ago.

In the last 12 months, 608 people were removed from the transplant list because they were too unwell for the surgery while a further 258 people died waiting on the list.

Today, a report by Kidney Care UK warns that urgent action is needed to stem the tide or years of progress increasing transplant rates will be lost.

It notes the numbers of people in the UK requiring lifesaving treatment due to kidney failure is growing dramatically with someone diagnosed nearly every hour.

NHS figures released today show 6,250 people are waiting for a kidney — 10 per cent more than a year ago(stock image)

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in the UK with one in five needing a transplant as a result of the disease. It's estimated that by 2033, there will be 7.6 million people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) — a rise of almost half a million (stock image)

In 2021, 8,175 adult patients started kidney replacement therapy— either through dialysis or transplant— an increase of 7.3 per cent from 2020.

This is predicted to grow significantly over the coming decade, due to an increase in risk factors such as diabetes and high blood pressure and an ageing population, it states.

It estimates that by 2033, there will be 7.6 million people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) — a rise of almost half a million.

Fiona Loud, policy director at the charity, said: ‘We’re extremely concerned and saddened that the waiting list for kidney transplants is at the longest it has been in a decade.

‘Now is the time for the government to get a grip on transplantation.

‘The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the waiting list and opportunities have been missed to make the most of the change in organ donation law to an opt-out system.’

Almost 4.3 million people were living with diabetes in 2021/22, according to figures for the UK. And another 850,000 people have diabetes and are completely unaware of it, which is worrying because untreated type 2 diabetes can lead to complications including heart disease and strokes

Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure in the UK with one in five needing a transplant as a result of the disease.

Last year, Diabetes UK declared the UK was in a ‘rapidly escalating diabetes crisis’ largely fuelled by unhealthy lifestyles with the number with the disease surpassing 5 million for the first time.

Growing waiting lists and a failure to recover from the 30 per cent drop in transplants during the pandemic, have led to a worsening situation for transplant patients, the report said.

In London alone, 1,753 people are on the kidney waiting list with patients waiting an average of 500 days for a transplant once they have been put on the list.

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The report identified widespread variation in the tests necessary to be considered for the transplant waiting list, and inconsistencies in labelling of whether someone is high risk resulting in a postcode lottery for transplants.

One in three people reported that waiting times for tests made it more difficult to get on the waiting list or have a transplant.

Patients reported unmet need for psychological support whilst on the waiting list with nearly one in five being called for a transplant that did not go ahead. There was also a lack of support once transplants were carried out.

The report also identified many financial difficulties experienced by transplant patients including the immediate loss of non-means tested disability benefits following surgery, despite people still facing health challenges and costs of ongoing medications.

The charity is calling on the new government to prioritise slowing the growth of the kidney transplant waiting list and use public health messaging to reduce the number developing the disease.

Those at risk should be screened to allow for earlier detection and better access to treatments which can help slow the disease, they said, with more consistent care pre and post transplants.

Greater public awareness about organ donation, NHS staff training, investment in transplant technology and access to theatre space for operations to take place are also vital to improve services, the report states.

Ms Loud, added: ‘We need the government to prevent more people developing kidney disease, the NHS to provide the best possible care, and for the provision of theatre spaces, technology, education and awareness or we risk more people dying before they get the chance to receive that life changing call.’

A spokesperson for NHS Blood and Transplant said: ‘Over 6,000 people are waiting for a kidney transplant.

'More than 3,300 kidney transplant operations took place last year, but we need more people to sign the NHS Organ Donor Register and we need to be innovative to make the best use of every precious organ.

'We look forward to working with Government to address this.’


Chronic kidney disease (CKD), also called chronic kidney failure, describes the gradual loss of kidney function.

Our kidneys filter out waste products and excess fluids from the blood before they are excreted through urine. They also help maintain blood pressure.

As CKD advances, the kidneys do not function properly and dangerous levels of waste build up in your body.

The risk of CKD increases as you age. It is also more common among Asians and blacks.

CKD does not usually cause any symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage. It can be detected early on via blood and urine tests.

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sleep problems
  • Changes in how much you urinate
  • Decreased mental sharpness
  • Muscle twitches and cramps
  • Swelling of feet and ankles
  • Persistent itching
  • Chest pain, if fluid builds up around the lining of the heart
  • Shortness of breath, if fluid builds up in the lungs
  • High blood pressure that is difficult to control

Those with the condition have a greater risk of having a stroke or heart attack. It can also cause kidney failure, when sufferers will need to have dialysis or a possible transplant.

However, lifestyle changes and medication can stop the disease from getting worse if it is diagnosed at an early stage.

To reduce your risk:

  • Follow instructions for over-the-counter medications. Taking too many pain relievers can lead to kidney damage
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don't smoke. Smoking cigarettes can cause kidney damage

Source: Mayo Clinic

Diabetes fuelling kidney disease timebomb as transplant list at a high (2024)
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