Before the coronavirus lockdown, representatives from the Royal Free Hospital Kidney Patient Association (RFKPA) and Thames Water visited dialysis patients at five hospitals and renal units in west London, including St Pancras Hospital, Tottenham Hale Renal Unit and the Edgware Dialysis Centre, to encourage them to join the water company’s free Priority Services Register – a database of customers who would struggle to get by should their home’s water supply be disrupted.
In such circumstances, priority service customers are contacted by Thames Water’s care team for bottled water deliveries directly to their homes if they are unable to get to a collection hub. The system also gives them advanced warning of planned work which may risk an interruption to their water supply.
People living with kidney disease are a key priority for Thames Water as many need access to water for home dialysis, but the register is also open to a wide range of people including those with mobility problems, chronic illnesses, metal health conditions, parents with young families and pensioners.
The company has 83,000 customers on its Priority Services Register and plans to increase it to 410,000 by 2025.
Andrea Brown, chief executive of the National Kidney Federation, played a key role in facilitating the partnership with Thames Water. She said: “It is important for us to offer our members support and information on how they can make the most of the help available to them. Water is essential for kidney health and joining hands with Thames Water means we are able to help people living with kidney conditions receive priority services and financial support; it gives them peace of mind knowing that help is at hand when they need it most in a way that is tailored to their needs.”
Tania Christie, Thames Water partnership coordinator, said: “Meeting our customers who are receiving kidney treatment was a really valuable experience as it helped me better understand the daily challenges they face and their wider needs. The majority didn’t realise they’re eligible to be on our Priority Services Register and were keen to sign up, as for them, having no water supply could cause serious health problems.
“Being in the hospitals also meant we could raise awareness of the register with the staff, who can now recommend it to their patients and talk to them about the benefits of signing up in advance rather than waiting for something to go wrong with their water supply and then flagging their dependency on water to us.”
President of the Royal Free Hospital Kidney Patients Association, David Myers, said: “The Royal Free KPA’s leadership committee saw a great opportunity in working with Thames Water to offer extra support and financial help to patients. Nii Plange, the RFHKPA Chairman, organised visits to all our dialysis units and, together with Thames Water, talked to over 500 patients, many of whom are now registered to receive free priority services should anything go wrong with their water supply.”
Sue Bowers has signed up to the PSR after meeting Tania from Thames Water at her dialysis clinic. She said: “As someone who dialyses at home the Priority Services Register brings us peace of mind knowing that help is available if we should ever need it. Kidney patients are particularly vulnerable to feeling the cold and feeling depressed, so having a reliable supply of water and good communication with Thames Water is important. We would like all kidney patients to be able to benefit from these free support services.”
- Customers can find out if they qualify for the Priority Services Register and sign up by clicking here or calling 0800 009 3652.