Dialysis patient forced to choose between heating and home treatment amid cost of living crisis

A 46-year-old man undergoing dialysis treatment has told ITV News Central he was forced to turn off his heating during the winter, so he could prioritise his medication instead.

Like many families facing a cost of living crisis, Phoenix Halliwell from Coventry has already tried to cut back on almost all expenses.

He uses home haemodialysis five nights a week for nine hours at a time.

The rising costs of energy bills have forced him to make difficult decisions to continue using his life saving treatment.

Mr Halliwell said: "We have cut back on our food shopping, we have turned the gas off, but for the dialysis machine, I do not have an option. The consequences are fatal."

He fears he is not alone as around 5,000 people in the UK use dialysis at home, according to Kidney Care UK.

Mr Halliwell said: "With the freezes to benefits that people are experiencing, the rising cost of living, I hate to say this but it does feel like a sort of a stealth cull on people that are considered less worthwhile to society."

'It does feel like a sort of stealth cull on people that are considered less worthwhile to society'

He has used home haemodialysis for around 10 years but fears he may have to get treatment in hospital if costs continue to increase.

He said: "It is causing some anxiety, the fact that I may have to resort in going back to hospital for treatment which would have a negative effect on my overall health.

"The implications are quite far-reaching in that if they (home haemodialysis patients) can't do it at home, then they will have to go back to hospital. 

He lives with a long term condition that has affected his kidneys since he was a teenager.

"The kidneys that filter the impurities from the blood do not work so any toxins that accumulate during the course of the day stay in my body until I connect to the dialysis machine to get it cleaned out,” he said.

'I may have to resort in going back to hospital for treatment which would have a negative effect on my overall health,' Phoenix tells ITV News Central

Mr Halliwell continues: "There is the associated cost of if that person cannot drive themselves to hospital, that is taking up more ambulances.

"It is requiring spaces in renal units that may not even be there and further stretching staff so the knock effects to the economy are greater than providing the support for people to dialyse at home."

His family switched off the heating in their home in January to help make ends meet, which has says has taken its toll on his body.

"Particularly on dialysis because as the blood leaves the body it is only in a plastic pipe going out to be cleaned and then coming back so that blood is cooling down.

"So, I have had to resort to hats and blankets and a sleeping bag and anything I can think of to keep warm."

Phoenix and his family have made cut backs to keep costs low but his machine is one thing that he cannot risk turning off. 

Credit: Mr Halliwell uses dialysis at home in his living room five nights a week.

The charity Kidney Care UK has echoed Phoenix's concerns.

Fiona Loud​, who is the charity's Policy Director, said a rise in costs will affect home haemodialysis users in particular.

She said: "There are some people who are not just dependent on dialysis to stay alive but they have taken the choice to dialyse at home and what that means is that uses power and energy and water as well.

"Any rise in prices for those things are going to affect people, particularly in that way, so their pockets are going to be affected by their medical treatment."

She adds: "We would like to see a medical tariff so it can be taken to the minimum possible level so people will not have to be faced with these vastly swinging rates that are going up and up and up."

Kidney Care UK supports thousands of people across the UK by providing support through counselling, financial aid and by creating a community for people to discuss their illness.

'Their pockets are going to be affected by their medical treatment,' Fiona Loud from Kidney Care UK says

In a statement, a spokesperson for the UK government said: "Our record investment in the NHS included an extra £2 billion last year and £8 billion over the next three years to cut waiting times, including delivering an extra nine million checks, scans and operations by 2025 as part of plans to tackle the Covid backlog and deliver long term recovery and reform.

"We also recognise the pressures people are facing with the rising cost of living and we are taking action to support households – including by cutting fuel duty, raising the threshold at which people start to pay National Insurance, and cutting taxes for the lowest-paid workers on Universal Credit so they can keep more of what they earn."