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Liz meets patients doing kidney dialysis at home

I recently visited the Baxter Patient Education Centre in Kew, London to see how specialist nurses are helping patients to manage their long-term health conditions.

People who need kidney dialysis or help with intravenous feeding come to the centre to learn how they can do this at home. Patients and their families are trained for 4 days and stay over night to make sure they have the confidence to start when they leave. The centre also provides ongoing advice and support. The service is offered free for patients, as part of Baxter’s contract with the NHS to provide dialysis machines.

visit to Baxter in Kew Feb 2014

Rose, who’s 74, told me at first she didn’t think she’d be able to cope with all the machines but now “it’s a doddle”. She and her husband Ray said they like to play bowls and go on holiday and home dialysis “gives us our freedom”, rather than having to go into hospital three times a week for 4 hours at a time. Chris, a 35 year old renal patient, agreed that home dialysis gives him more freedom and choice, and that sharing experiences with other patients at the centre had really helped him too.

I also met Lisa who needs help feeding through an intravenous tube. Before she went to the centre, Lisa was really struggling with her health and going in and out of hospital. Because of the one-to-one training she and her husband John got at the centre, her condition is now much more stable. Lisa and John chose self-management because they have children and a couple of dogs and thought going into hospital, or having to rely on a district nurse, would be complicated to arrange, and because they wanted the confidence to cope on their own.

Jane Wild, one of the specialist renal nurses who works at the centre, told me she thought it was much better to train people in the community than in hospitals because nurses have more time to focus on the individual patient rather than constantly having to rush on to the next person. She also said nurses and patients have a different attitude at the centre. The nurses “have to sit on their hands, and help people to help themselves”, and not take over if someone has a problem. The patients know when they come to the centre “they are here to learn” rather than simply have things done ‘to’ them.

Giving people the skills, knowledge and confidence to manage their own health conditions can improve their lives and make better use of resources by reducing the need for more expensive hospital care. Making sure we shift the focus of NHS services more towards prevention and self-management is a key priority for me as a local MP and a member of Labour’s Shadow Health team.