A team at the Royal Free Hospital are aiming to increase the awareness of living kidney donations among some ethnic minority communities as part of a drive to reduce health inequalities for those affected by renal failure.

People from Hindu, Jain, and Black community groups make up almost 20% of patients at the Royal Free Hospital receiving treatment for kidney failure including dialysis – but they often have to wait longer than white patients for a transplant.  

Currently, a third of people waiting for a kidney transplant in the UK are from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. For a kidney donation to be successful, the donor and patient need to be matched by tissue and blood type and often a patient’s best chance of finding a match is from a donor of the same ethnicity. With only 7% of deceased donors currently from a Black or Asian background, living donation gives a vital extra lifeline to these patients.

Funded by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), the one-year project aims to tackle this problem by supporting patients during their routine clinical appointments, offering information about how living kidney donations work, supporting patients to find a living donor, and giving them access to culturally specific resources.

The project is being delivered by organ donation facilitator, Rekha Parekh, and scrub nurse, Paris Turner. Rekha said she is looking forward to working closely with patients and supporting them through this process.

She explained: “Transplantation and organ donation is a subject close to my heart and I have dedicated a lot of time to this during my 37 years at the trust. I hope to help people have honest and open conversations so they understand all of the options and can make the right decision for them.” 

Fiona Sharples, co-chair of the project and lead renal transplant nurse at the Royal Free London, continued: “By raising awareness of organ donations, more people can receive the life-changing gift of a transplant.”

The initiative builds on the work of Kirit Modi, chair of the Jain and Hindu Organ Donation Steering Group (JHOD), and David Myers, chair of the trust’s Organ Donation Committee. Both Kirit and David received kidney donations at the trust.

Kirit said: “As a kidney transplant recipient at the Royal Free Hospital, I am most grateful for the amazing care I continue to receive from staff in the renal department. However, we need to address wider health inequalities.

“This project provides one-to-one support to patients at a time when they are considering key options in their treatment. I am hopeful that it will increase living kidney donations at the hospital and transform the lives of patients.”

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Pictured above L-R: Kirit, Paris, Rekha and David meeting in person for the first time outside the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead.