Waiting for a kidney transplant 

Ideally, a kidney transplant should be performed when testing shows the extent of damage to your kidneys is so great that you will require dialysis within six months.

However, because of the lack of available kidneys, it is unlikely you will receive a kidney donation at this time unless a family member or friend who has a similar tissue type to you is willing to make a living donation.

Most people with kidney failure need dialysis while they wait for a donated kidney to become available.

The average time a person spends on the waiting list for a kidney transplant is about three years. People with rarer blood groups or tissue types tend to wait longer.

How donations are allocated

Demand for donations from recently deceased people far outstrips supply so there are strict but necessary guidelines about how donations are allocated.

Children and young adults are given priority if a matched donation becomes available as they will most likely gain a long-term benefit from donation.

For older adults, a scoring system is used to determine who should get a donation. The score is based on factors such as how long you have been on the waiting list and how well matched the donor is in terms of tissue type, blood group and age.

Waiting for a transplant

If you are on the waiting list for a kidney, the transplant centre will need to contact you at short notice once a kidney becomes available so you must inform staff if there are any changes to your contact details.

You should also inform staff if there are changes to your health – for example, if you develop an infection.

While waiting for a donated kidney to become available, it is important you stay as healthy as possible by doing the following:

  • eating a healthy diet – read more about healthy eating
  • taking regular exercise if possible – read more about exercise and getting fit
  • moderating your consumption of alcohol – recommended limits for alcohol consumption are three to four units a day for men and two to three units a day for women; read some tips on cutting down
  • stopping smoking if you smoke – read more about stopping smoking

Make sure you always have an overnight bag ready for when the call comes and make arrangements with friends, family and work so you can go to the transplant centre as soon as a donor becomes available.

Transplant centres

In England, there are 20 NHS specialist kidney transplant centres. Six centres are in London, and a further 14 are in the following cities:

  • Birmingham
  • Bristol
  • Cambridge
  • Coventry
  • Leeds
  • Leicester
  • Liverpool
  • Manchester
  • Newcastle
  • Nottingham
  • Oxford
  • Plymouth
  • Portsmouth
  • Sheffield

Read about how a kidney transplant is performed.

Page last reviewed: 31/01/2014

Next review due: 31/01/2016