Background: Following the introduction of dialysis and transplantation for the treatment of established renal failure (ERF) 40 years ago, the UK failed to match the achievements of many other countries.
Aim: To review progress with treatment for ERF in the UK in the past 20 years.
Design: Review of four cross-sectional national studies, and 1997-2002 annual UK Renal Registry data.
Methods: Data on UK patients on renal replacement treatment (RRT) were collated from three sources: European Registry reports for 1982-1990, surveys carried out within the UK in 1993, 1996, 1998 and 2002, and the UK Renal Registry database (1997-2002). Trends in acceptance and prevalence rates, median age, cause of ERF, and treatment modality were analysed and compared with current data from other countries.
Results: The UK annual acceptance rate for RRT increased from 20 per million population (pmp) in 1982 to 101 pmp in 2002. This growth was largely in those aged over 65 years, and in those with co-morbidity. Annual acceptance rates for ERF due to diabetes rose from 1.6 to 18 pmp. The prevalence of RRT increased from 157 pmp in 1982 to 626 pmp in 2002. Hospital haemodialysis has become the main modality, and is increasingly being provided in satellite units. Although rising, UK acceptance and prevalence rates are still lower than in many developed countries.
Discussion: Despite significant expansion in RRT services for adults in the UK over the last 20 years, there is evidence of unmet need, and need is expected to rise, due to demographic changes and trends in type 2 diabetes. Continuing growth in the already substantial investment in RRT will be needed, unless efforts to prevent the occurrence of ERF are successful.