More patients are now able to receive vital dialysis treatment closer to their homes following an expansion of the renal unit at West Cumberland Hospital.

Dialysis machines, which remove waste and excess water from the blood, are crucial for people whose kidneys are no longer working properly.

Many of those affected need to spend hours at a time in hospital, hooked up to the machines, several times a week.

Demand for dialysis is growing, both locally and nationally.

The Whitehaven renal unit has been so busy that’s one patients have had to travel to Carlisle for this treatment.

Craig Bell, from Whitehaven, has been receiving dialysis in hospital for just over a year, until recently at Carlisle's Cumberland Infirmary.

But he can now receive his treatment in Whitehaven following the expansion of the unit, which was opened this week.

He said: “I was going to Carlisle and receiving my treatment three times a week for four hours a day. But actually with the travel to Carlisle, this meant I was out for up to eight hours. It’s brilliant that I can now come to West Cumberland Hospital, it cuts my travelling down significantly.”

His friend Mark Nicholson, from Workington, had also been travelling to Carlisle since starting dialysis last September.

He said: “It’s so much better being able to come to the hospital in Whitehaven. It makes it so much easier not just for me but also my family.

“I’ve been able to make friends who receive their treatment at the same time, and even attended Craig’s 50th birthday recently. The care from staff at Whitehaven is second to none, I can’t fault it.”

To help meet the ever-increasing demand for dialysis services, the Whitehaven unit has been expanded from seven treatment spaces to 11.

The extra four spaces will allow a further 16 people to receive their dialysis treatment in West Cumberland Hospital.

The new facilities are located next to the existing unit, in the old maternity ward. The expanded unit also allows staff to offer patients the option of home dialysis, where appropriate.

Andrew Bow, renal consultant at the West Cumberland Hospital, said: “It’s lovely to be able to provide long-term regular, frequent treatment to patients in West Cumbria and prevent them having to travel to Carlisle for their treatment.

“This is what the future of renal services in Whitehaven looks like. The expansion has given us a great little unit that will help patients look after themselves and also help those patients administer their own therapy at home.”

Edwina Gaythwaite, from Whitehaven, is among those benefiting.

She said: “I like to receive the home dialysis treatment as it gives me a lot more freedom, although I’m not isolated as the staff run a social group for home dialysis patients three times a year, so I can socialise with those who receive similar treatment.”

Louise Atkinson, staff nurse for the Home Therapies team, said: “The kind of dialysis treatment a patient prefers to receive – be it at home or in the hospital – is really down to their individual preferences and their lifestyle.

“We’re now in a position where we can give our patients a lot more choice of treatment and where to have it, as one size does not fit all for renal patients.

“Obviously needing such frequent dialysis treatment has a big impact on people’s live and we need our treatments to suit any lifestyle, across the whole of north Cumbria. We’re very much about getting patients involved as much as we can in their own care.”

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS trust’s renal unit recently came first out of 56 renal centres for overall patient experience in a national survey.

The Home Therapies team were also shortlisted for a Burdett Nursing award for their ongoing dedicated work, securing £4,000 funding for the trust.