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COVID-19 – our updated charity statement

17 April 2020

Over recent weeks, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has presented us with huge challenges. We’ve updated our statement, and we will continue to do so as the situation changes. 

Hear from Sandra Currie, our Chief Executive, to find out more about the impact coronavirus is having and what we are doing to ensure we keep research going.

Unprecedented times with a huge impact 

It quickly became evident that the impact of coronavirus on the whole kidney community would be enormous - but it has been greater than we had feared, even in the early days. 

People affected by kidney disease are facing even tougher times than they normally do. Being described as ‘extremely vulnerable’ brings worry and anxiety and means people who have adapted and learned to live with a long-term condition for years, even decades, are feeling they have lost some of their independence and control. Those visiting hospital for life-saving dialysis are at increased risk of exposure, and yet they have no choice but to keep doing this - contradicting advice they are also getting to stay at home and isolate. The need to take immunosuppressant drugs to keep their transplanted organs working places people at an increased risk of catching coronavirus. 

The pandemic has had a huge impact on research. Many labs have closed, studies have halted and clinical staff have been redeployed to the front line. This is absolutely the right thing to happen right now. But as a charity whose work normally gives hope to people because of our research, this impact is hard to take. 

The pandemic has also had made a significant dent on our finances. We anticipate that our income over the year ahead could drop by nearly 50 per cent – that’s almost £5 million. This huge drop has happened for several reasons, including events being cancelled, the value of investments going down, a potential drop in legacy values, and people who usually donate to us feeling less able to do so. 

Some big decisions 

We are doing everything we can to keep our research going and we are determined to safeguard it for the future. We are supporting the researchers we fund to minimise the impact on their work, and reassuring clinical staff or healthcare professionals that any research funding they were due to receive from us won’t be affected.  

We continue to direct people seeking guidance about care and services to the Renal Association, Kidney Care UK and the National Kidney Federation (NKF), our partner charities who can provide the most up-to-date information. 

But we’ve also had to make some tough decisions in this unprecedented time. 

We have had to make the very difficult decision to stop granting any new research awards for the time being. This is devastating as the problems our research needs to solve haven’t gone away – in fact our research is even more important than ever. But the reality is that we just don’t have the funds right now to commit to any new projects. We must ensure that we protect the research we have already committed to by ensuring any funds we raise are not spread too thinly and put this vital research at risk. 

The income drop has also meant we have had to completely change how we work as a charity.  

We have looked at every aspect of our spending and taken some tough but essential steps. This includes reducing our salary bill. The majority of staff have agreed to accept a reduction of 20 per cent on their salary. To achieve this around half of our staff have been furloughed, and those remaining in vital roles continuing to work and keep the charity going have also accepted a cut in their salaries, including myself and the senior team 

Getting the balance between ensuring we have enough staff to sustain the work we need to raise funds and support people with kidney disease, and cutting our salary bill, has been hard.  

I am very grateful to our fantastic staff team whose commitment to kidney research is shining through. So many of them have stepped forward to ensure the charity’s future is sustained in the long term.   

Our work is more important than ever 

Over recent months, we have been developing our new, ambitious strategy, which we believe is vital to improve the lives of people with kidney disease. 

This unprecedented situation doesn’t change those plans – in fact, it underlines the importance of them. It is even more important for us to make all treatments better, transplants to last longer and require less immunosuppression, and make dialysis kinder to patients.  

The Covid-19 outbreak has placed additional people at risk of kidney failure, with acute kidney injury – when kidneys suddenly become damaged, rather than happening slowly over time - occurring in people with no known history of kidney problems. Sadly, this means that even more people may depend on our research in the future.  

We are determined to drive forward our plans and will continue to work to deliver what we have promised, and more if we can 

We need your help 

We rely on our generous supporters to drive forward our work. We need your help more than ever before.  

  • If you feel able to donate, please do 
  • Follow us on social media Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn 
  • Sign up to our emails 
  • Share our messages to help us reach more people
  • If you are affected by kidney disease, get in touch with us to share your story and join Kidney Voices 
  • Call us on 0300 303 1100 or email us with comments and questions

Thank you so much for your support. It is vital and will be life-saving. 

Sandra Currie, Chief Executive 

Our research is only possible with your support.

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