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Around three million people in the UK have kidney disease

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Doctors are joining forces as a global team

15 April 2020

Doctors are joining forces as a global team community to ensure patients receive the best treatment during the coronavirus outbreak.

Professor Sunil Bhandari, a nephrology consultant and trustee for Kidney Research UK, says it is the first time he has seen so much information freely shared by medics globally online.

Professor Sunil Bhandari
Professor Sunil Bhandari, a nephrology consultant and trustee for Kidney Research UK

“Historically, medics don’t tend to share data because it is better to be peer reviewed by colleagues and written about in medical journals,” he said. “However, that’s the last of people’s worries now.

“The key concern is making sure we do the right thing for patients. Information is being freely shared to make sure people get the most up to date care.”

Hull-based Sunil has been in regular contact with renal and medical colleagues from London and various countries around the world where the coronavirus outbreak hit before reaching Yorkshire.

“Doctors have become highly skilled in a very short period of time through necessity,” he said. “We are sharing our work, research and findings in a way not seen before. There’s so much data pre-publication; it’s unheard of.

“I hope it’s reassuring for patients knowing we are using the best knowledge out there. Practice is changing all the time, thanks to this wealth of lived experience.”

Sunil is among NHS staff at the front line at the Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust where they are working at maximum capacity to ensure patients are supported.

“It is a huge administrative task to make sure consultants keep in touch with kidney patients,” Sunil said.

“I’m sure I speak for all hospitals when I say renal nursing teams are amazing. They’ve undertaken a huge job and worked extremely hard. In Hull my research team have also been fantastic – the two research nurses are back on the front line in COVID wards, and my three research fellows have all come back into clinical service to help support their colleagues and, most importantly, help keep our patients safe.”

While patient care is the main priority, Sunil said it is equally important that colleagues take care of each other while dealing with daily distress.

“I don’t think we’ll realise the psychological consequences until many months down the line,” he said. “NHS staff are getting on with it, but it will take its toll.

“In one day, for example, I took 93 calls from colleagues throughout our regional hospitals we service, dialysis units and patients, and am mentally drained, but there is no let up and we cannot just stop.”

Sunil has started cycling his 10K commute to work to replace his usual gym session.

“The physical exercise and downtime of cycling is good for my wellbeing,” he said. “It is important to look after ourselves and keep our mental strength during this difficult time.

“It is also important for people to talk,” he added.

“Whatever your situation, this is a bizarre time for everyone, and it will impact in different ways.  If people keep things to themselves, they will fall off the edge. That goes for NHS staff and the general public.”

Like most NHS staff, Sunil said none of them feel like heroes, however he is grateful for the morale-boosting rallying round of local communities.

“Our local businesses have been fantastic. We’ve had fresh bread and fruit delivered daily. Also, my daughters’ old school, Hymers College in Hull, have made visors for NHS staff. I’ve got a lovely pair of glasses from, I think, their chemistry lab!

“People have been fantastic. It has made a huge difference. Our communities need clapping for supporting us like this.”

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