A BOLTON woman has warned that vulnerable kidney patients are at risk of deteriorating mental health due to anxiety and uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kidney patients in the UK are already twice as likely to suffer with their mental health, according to statistics released before the coronavirus pandemic.

With confusion over shielding and when it should end continuing, patients face additional anxiety and depression, with some feeling like they are being forgotten, according to kidney patient Sarah Green.

She said: “People are dying because they are unable to manage their health alongside a serious mental health issue, and I was very nearly one of them.

“So many chronically-ill patients tell us poor mental health massively impacts their quality of life and their ability to cope with often traumatic and difficult treatments and health issues.”

Sarah is now advising both Kidney Research UK and the Centre for Mental Health, with the two charities teaming up to highlight the need for robust mental health support for patients with kidney disease.

The two charities have issued a statement ‘Kidney disease and mental health’, which highlights how vulnerable kidney patients already were before the coronavirus pandemic.

They are also raising concerns about the impact on mental health among people with kidney disease who are being shielded and face a prolonged period of anxiety and isolation, with no sign of a way out.

Sarah said: “I’ve seen ‘difficult’ patients or people who’ve skipped dialysis – labelled as ‘non-compliant’ - die. I’ve seen doctors who were astounded at the seemingly stupid decisions that patients make that could make them more poorly or even die, and yet very rarely did they stop to question why.

“I am sure many ‘difficult’ patients are actually doing everything they can to fight the fires in their heads and simply don’t have the energy to stick to rigid diet and treatment protocols. I am certain that people are at their limit and dread anything else going wrong.

“Every time you are admitted or have a procedure you go into that carrying all the trauma from previous procedures. Trauma that has had time to grow and solidify in your head. Then you are made to feel like you are over-reacting. This often leads to you feeling even worse.

“With the additional stress of shielding, we have reached crisis point. Many were already struggling before lockdown and didn’t have the capacity to cope with further stress.

“Now, after shielding for several weeks and confusion about going outside again, the level of fear is palpable. People are now worried about finances, food and their health. We urgently need to address mental health in kidney disease now more than ever.”

Sandra Currie, chief executive of Kidney Research UK, said: “Kidney disease is a life-threatening condition that can dominate people’s lives. Living with the condition was already tough, but after Covid-19 hit, it has got even more difficult.

“People can live well with kidney disease if there is a combined focus on their physical and mental health needs.

“We urgently need to show which approaches and treatments work and improve the prospects for patients at every stage of their illness.

“This will include access to psychological support alongside treatment for their physical health needs. The link between mental health and kidney disease is under-recognised, so people are not getting the right support.

“We must change this. Our research, along with others, will provide the answers we need.”

Sarah Hughes, chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, added: “Having a long-term condition doubles your chances of having a mental health problem.

“Living with kidney disease is extremely challenging for anyone and that takes its toll on people’s mental health.

“Now more than ever we need to take mental health as seriously as physical health for people with kidney disease. No one should have their mental health ignored or reduced to the side lines.”