Green Nephrology Summit - "the greatest untapped resource in healthcare is the patient"

Saturday, 2 October, 2010

The conversation in green nephrology has changed. Though water reclamation, recycling and energy saving are still important, a fly on the wall at last week’s Green Nephrology Summit would have heard just as much about “telephone clinics”, “RenalPatientView”*, “patient self-care”, “shared decision-making”…

Read the full Summit Report here.

Just eighteen months after the first (exploratory) Green Nephrology Summit in early 2009, Green Nephrology 2010 was a vibrant celebration of an inspiring journey! Packed into the education centre at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, renal nurses, doctors, technicians and managers chattered animatedly with kidney patients, industry reps and the occasional medical student!

After a rousing opening from Donal O’Donoghue (renal “tsar”) and David Pencheon (Director of the NHS Sustainable Development Unit), outgoing Green Nephrology Fellow, Andy Connor, gave a lightening round-up of achievements in the last year – from recruitment of local representatives in 80% of UK kidney units, through surveys, case studies and pilots, publications and presentations, to completion of the first ever carbon footprint of a clinical service. (So, not at all a hard act to follow for our incoming Fellow, Dr Tara Collidge...!)

Then it was down to work: the participants divided into groups to rush between “masterclasses” in carbon footprinting, telephone clinics and water reclamation in haemodialysis – the focus very much on taking lessons from one unit to another. Lunch (vegetarian and mainly local) was served in the midst of a “Knowledge Market” – participants formed teams and competed to fill a “knowledge basket” from facts and figures posted around the room, or carried in the heads of fellow Summit-goers. (Prizes went to Isobel Braithwaite, medical student at Cambridge University, and Neluka Weerasooriya, Quality Manager from Renal Services).

Probably the most memorable contribution from the day came next, from Andy Williamson, a kidney patient in Devon. Andy told his story of developing kidney failure and beginning on dialysis, and realising with shock how dependent he was on precious resources which are just being used up without anyone thinking about it. It was incredibly powerful to hear him say, as a patient, “I really feel strongly that this stuff is really important - and not just for the few people here - it is so important for everyone, because it's part of my future, my family's future, my grandchildren's future."

“The greatest untapped resource in healthcare is the patient” 
Andy Williamson, kidney patient, September 2010 

Not only are patients a powerful voice in articulating the need for Green Nephrology, patients themselves are a key resource in the provision of high quality services at a much lower input of resources. The use of telecommunications, patient self-care and home therapies came up both in the presentation from Nesta Hawker on “commissioning sustainable care” and in the afternoon workshops, brainstorming the way forward for Green Nephrology in the next year.

The afternoon closed with a round-up chaired by Sir Muir Gray, the launch of the new “Green Stars” initiative (which will rate local kidney units for their nomination of staff and patient green representatives, submission of a green action plan, and contribution to the growing Green Nephrology case library), and finally the presentation by Dr Charlie Tomson (president of the Renal Association) of the new "Green Nephrology Award" to Andy Connor in recognition of all his hard work in the last year.

Green stars initiative

Sustainability is now firmly at the heart of high quality kidney care. Preventative, patient-centred and lean, sustainable care means tapping into that neglected resource: the patient – giving them ownership of their own health data and healthcare decisions, using telephone and email to provide more flexible services, and supporting people in caring for themselves.


"Sustainability - the seventh dimension of quality" slide taken from presentation by Dr Donal O'Donoghue, National Clinical Director for Kidney Care


  • - web portal which allows kidney patients to access their own blood results online
  • Read the full Summit Report here