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Christchurch Kidney Society supporting patients and their whānau

Often it is the small things which make a big difference to someone struggling with a chronic disease.

The Christchurch Kidney Society have supported countless patients in their journey with kidney disease – and Field Officer Jo Houghton says being able to provide something as simple as skincare for a patient can make all the difference.

The Society has supported patients and their families through their kidney journeys since 1973, working closely with the Nephrology Department at Christchurch Hospital and Kidney Health New Zealand.

“Dry and irritated skin is a big problem for patients with kidney disease – and something like a constant itch can really break a person,” she says.

“My role as a Field Officer is to provide practical support for patients by communicating with our Field Worker to ensure their holistic needs are being met. Weekly hospital visits by the Field Worker, with alternate days to cover all patients, especially in the dialysis units, means that we see more patients and get a good idea of practical ways to help them.”

An estimated 400,000 New Zealander’s are affected by kidney disease, many of whom may be unaware they have it.

The Society works with Christchurch Hospital’s Nephrology Department to co-ordinate a number of care programmes to support patients and their families.

“Having a close and open relationship with the CDHB Nephrology Department is vital and crucial to making sure we understand the needs of patients. Being able to feedback the information we receive on a general basis does help the staff to understand how patients are feeling,” she says.

The Nephrology Department cares for about 300 transplant patients and see approximately 1600 outpatients each year, supporting people from Christchurch, Ashburton, Timaru and Greymouth.

“Each patient follows a very individual journey with kidney disease, as far as treatment, response to treatment, family situations and almost every aspect of their lives.  No two patients are the same and no assumptions should ever be made,” Ms Houghton says.

“There is always something to learn from each patient. It can become apparent from one person’s journey that another may be needing help along the same lines too, so sometimes we can spot and respond to trends. We make sure we explore all options, or make the necessary referrals if we cannot find a solution or some relief for a patient.”

She says one of the most successful programmes has been Dialysis Distraction Therapy, which provided patients with a ‘menu’ filled with activities and practical products to help distract and comfort them during treatment.

Ms Houghton’s role as Field Officer was funded by Rātā Foundation under its Funding Focus    area, which ensures people have access to the right support when they are in need – whether it be long or short term.

Rātā Foundation Chief Executive Leighton Evans says there are times when people need support to overcome challenges.


“Ensuring people are getting the right support for their needs, when they need it, is a priority for Rātā.   We recognise that when people are well supported, they have a better opportunity to participate positively in the community.”

“The Christchurch Kidney Society not only supports patients and their whānau through this journey, but connects them with others in similar situations who can share their experiences and feel that they are not alone or isolated in the process.” For more information on the Christchurch Kidney Society, visit the Kidney Health New Zealand website:

For more information on Rātā Foundation’s Support funding area, visit the website: