Royal Free staff member smiling next to a dialysis machine

Dialysis is a form of treatment for patients with kidney failure. It is a process for removing excess water and toxins from the body, simulating the work of the kidney. 

Our kidney dialysis service provides renal replacement therapy to patients living in north central London. This is delivered as locally as possible to patients' homes at our community-based dialysis units:

  • Barnet Dialysis Unit 
  • Edgware Kidney Care Centre 
  • St Pancras Kidney and Diabetes Centre 
  • Tottenham Hale Kidney Centre .

We also have an acute dialysis unit at the Royal Free Hospital for inpatients suffering from chronic kidney failure or acute kidney disease who may have specialist requirements. This unit is located in 10 South ward. 

Our kidney dialysis treatment includes:

  • haemodialysis 
  • peritoneal dialysis and automated peritoneal dialysis.

All dialysis patients attend outpatient clinic appointments with their named nurse and are seen by the dialysis doctors routinely every six months.

What is haemodialysis?

One role of your kidneys is to filter out waste products and remove excess fluid and salts from your blood. Haemodialysis helps to do this when your kidneys are not working properly. During haemodialysis, your blood flows through the dialysis machine and then back into your body. Haemodialysis can be done in a dialysis unit by nursing staff, or we can teach you to do it by yourself either in the unit or at home.

Home haemodialysis

Home haemodialysis is available to Royal Free Hospital patients. If you are eligible for home treatment you will be trained by our renal team to use a home haemodialysis machine. A specialist renal nurse working as part of a team of specialists will provide support to new and established home haemodialysis patients, and there is technical support for the dialysis equipment.

If you have an urgent medical problem as a dialysis patient then please call your dialysis nurse in working hours, or NHS 111, and they will advise on whether to visit A&E at the Royal Free Hospital to be reviewed by the renal team.

What is peritoneal dialysis?

Peritoneal dialysis is a form of dialysis that means you can treat kidney failure in the comfort of your own home. It is as effective as dialysis given in hospital, but gentler. Fluid is added to your abdomen through a tube, left there to absorb toxins and then drained out. The fluid exchanges can be performed at intervals that are convenient to you during the day, by you, or via a machine at night. We call these techniques continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) and automated peritoneal dialysis (APD).

Support for patients on peritoneal dialysis

You will be supported by specialist renal nurses who are there to help new and established peritoneal dialysis patients. Each patient has a dedicated nurse who provides you with regular assessment, monitoring and advice.

The renal vascular access service at the Royal Free Hospital caters for all kidney patients who require a fistula — an access made by joining an artery and vein in the arm — for haemodialysis or a catheter (a small, thin tube) in their abdomen for peritoneal dialysis. 

A fistula allows access to the bloodstream for haemodialysis without the need for any plastic tubes in the body, reducing infection risks. We run a one-stop clinic where patients are offered theatre appointment dates immediately after surgical assessment. Most access procedures are done in day surgery and are routinely followed up in our nurse-led dialysis access clinic.