A unique service offering patient to patient support for those receiving kidney care has been relaunched at the Royal Free Hospital after COVID-19 put it on hold.

Patients, including those receiving a kidney transplant or having dialysis, are put in touch with a volunteer who has also received renal care at the hospital.

Talking things over with someone who has been through a similar experience helps patients to manage any anxieties they may feel, which can lead to better health outcomes as well as greater peace of mind.

Adesola Onalaja (pictured below), 49, from Colindale, is one of the trust’s 10 renal peer support volunteers.

She said: “I’ve been on dialysis for 16 years and for the past eight years I’ve been receiving it at home.  I enjoy talking to people who are being encouraged by their care teams to switch to home dialysis. I understand the nervousness because that’s how I felt, and I can offer a lot of encouragement that they can do this and that it is perfectly safe, with the proper training. I can talk them through it because I went through the process myself.

“Being a peer supporter gives me a lot of satisfaction – we know what we are talking about! I’m good at reassuring people and making them realise that the fact that their healthcare team has confidence in them and is prepared to offer them extensive self-care training means they can take control of their own wellbeing. It’s a very rewarding feeling to be able to give them that support and help them on a path to more self-reliance.”

Emma Dunning, a renal transplant clinical nurse specialist, involved in running the rebooted peer support service said it was an important part of the trust’s toolkit to help some of their most vulnerable patients.

Emma said: “So many of our patients are on a journey and they might need to talk to people with different life experiences along the way. Our incredible volunteers mean there is someone for everyone. We know our patients appreciate the support of our doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals but our volunteers have something priceless to offer – the lived experience.

“Life as a kidney patient is not easy and having someone to talk to who has been in a similar situation means they can get a lot of reassurance that they are not alone in this. Our peer supporters are an exceptional group of people. Despite everything they have been through themselves they still want to help others and we are extremely grateful to them.”

The support service is a joint project between the trust and the Royal Free Charity.


Main picture: Staff from the renal team pictured with kidney peer support volunteers including Adesola and Celia (featured in the poster above).