By Lucy Ashton
Despite the massive impact of COVID-19 on health services, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been able to continue providing a steady kidney transplant service throughout the pandemic, enabling upwards of 140 people to receive the life-changing surgery since April 2020.
Thanks to extremely strict protocols and close collaboration between the renal team, radiology and virology responsible for efficiently screening patients, staff at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Hospital for Children were able to quickly establish pathways to allow transplants for all but the most high-risk patients.
While overall renal transplant figures have decreased slightly, the 140 figure marks the fourth busiest year on record for the QEUH based West of Scotland kidney transplant centre.
To date, no transplant patient has contracted COVID-19 in hospital as a consequence of their procedure.
The local health board’s lead consultant for transplant surgery, Dr Marc Clancy, puts the success down to a number of factors which have been underpinned by different services working together. From theatre staff swiftly adapting normal processes, to virology and radiology providing efficient screening and rapid access to CT scans early on, to the Centre for Integrative Care at Gartnavel allowing outpatient clinics to take place there (away from the vast majority of other patient footfall) – the service has effectively mitigated the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Hard-pressed surgeons get on with procedures at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Dr Clancy said: “Teams across the service have gelled together like never before to ensure a service continuation for the West of Scotland Renal Transplant Centre. Whether that’s simply being accessible during COVID-19, or through listening to patient concerns and understanding the high-risk nature of renal patients, we’ve been able to ensure the right pathways were in place from near the beginning of the pandemic to allow our patients to continue to receive the life-changing procedures they require.”
The efforts of the West of Scotland Renal Transplant Centre nursing team were recently recognised, with the team taking the “Excellence in delivering patient care” award at the British Transplantation Society’s virtual annual awards ceremony on the 25th of February.
On the future for the transplantation service at NHSGGC, Dr Clancy added: “Overall transplant numbers have been steadily increasing since 2009, and while we’ve seen a small dip in numbers overall across the UK due to the pandemic, with the new opt-in rules coming into force at the end of the month we expect the numbers of transplants to take place across the UK to increase upwards of 30% over the next five years. This is fantastic news for our patients, and despite the pandemic, we are in a strong position within NHSGGC and anticipate similar growth in figures within our own service.”
Pictured: QEUH where the West of Scotland Transplant Service is based