Kidney disease could become a public health emergency without more government funding, a charity has warned.
The illness already costs the UK economy £7bn a year, according to a new report by Kidney Research UK, and that could rise to £13.9bn in the next decade if no action is taken.
That covers the direct cost of treatment to the NHS, as well as money lost by those left unable to work.
The main factor which could drive up costs is an increase in demand for dialysis – a crucial treatment for patients who suffer kidney failure.
More than seven million people live with chronic kidney disease across the country, the charity estimates.
But that figure could rise, with people with diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and those who are obese most at risk.
The charity wants the government to commit £50m a year into kidney disease research – way up from the £17.7m its report says was provided in 2021-22.
NHS ‘risks being overwhelmed’
Kidney Research UK said the greater funding could be put towards developing better prevention strategies and treatment options, as well as earlier diagnosis.
Chief executive Sandra Currie said without it, the NHS “risks being overwhelmed with demand”.
“There is no cure for kidney disease, a transplant does not last a lifetime and dialysis patients face hours of gruelling treatment every week, taking them away from loved ones and making it harder to work,” she added.
“We know the only hope for stopping the growth of kidney disease and the increasing burden to the health system, the economy and to patients is better prevention strategies, earlier diagnosis and better treatment options, and yet kidney disease isn’t even included in NHS long-term strategic plans.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the government is “committed” to improving services for patients living with kidney disease.
“We fund research for all aspects of health, including research into kidney disease, through the National Institute for Health and Care Research,” they added.