Kidney Research UK, formerly the National Kidney Research Fund, has launched a month-long awareness campaign to coincide with the announcement of its name change.
According to the charity, one in 10 people in the UK has chronic kidney disease and a disturbingly high proportion of those are oblivious to their condition. It estimates that the number of people with kidney failure is rising by 8 per cent annually and the proportion of people requiring renal treatment will increase to at least 30 per cent within the next 10 years. Treating kidney patients accounts for 2 per cent of the NHS's budget, although that figure is higher when it is taken into account that people with kidney disease are more likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack.
The key message of the campaign is to make at-risk groups aware of the problems and encourage them to go to a doctor if they feel they have any of the symptoms of kidney disease.
A spokeswoman for Kidney Research UK said: "People with diabetes and high blood pressure are at risk of developing kidney disease, and the fact that there's been a huge explosion in both explains why the incidence of kidney disease and kidney failure is also on the rise.
"The only treatments for kidney failure are dialysis, where a patient is hooked up to a machine for hours several times a week, or a kidney transplant. But kidney disease, if diagnosed in the early stages, can be successfully treated so that the patient can lead a normal life. That's why the main emphasis of the campaign is on preventing kidney failure in the first place."
The charity has the backing of a number of celebrities, including DJ James Whale and former presenter Nick Owen, who have both had cancer of the kidney. Actress Lucy Davis had a kidney transplant eight years ago and is also pledging her support to the campaign. The charity will be putting its celebrity supporters up for interview and has a number of case studies available. It has been targeting the medical press, the national press and women's magazines. The charity has joined forces with ITV's This Morning, which filmed a family in which the entire household had kidney disease. It will also be sending out posters to GP surgeries and renal departments.
Black and Asian people are also an at-risk group, being five times more likely to develop kidney disease. The charity has recruited 'peer educators' from these backgrounds to spread the message within their communities as part of an continuing campaign.