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Kidney transplant dad urges Thames Water customers to sign up for extra support

Monday 12th October 2020 13:26

Rob Barber locating Thames Water pipes

Rob Barber, Thames Water network service technician

A former kidney transplant patient is urging people living with kidney disease in the Thames Valley to register for extra support should their water supply be interrupted.

Rob Barber is a Thames Water engineer, responsible for maintaining and fixing the company’s clean water network. He has battled kidney disease since being diagnosed with renal failure resulting from hyperparathyroidism five years ago, just before his daughter’s first birthday.

The father of two was treated at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, visiting the renal unit three times a week for dialysis before receiving a new kidney from a living donor in February 2018. 

Rob, who has worked at Thames Water for two years, is now using his second chance to encourage Thames Water customers who are living with long-term health conditions to join the water company’s free Priority Services Register (PSR) – a secure database of customers who would struggle to get by should their home’s water supply be disrupted. 

In such circumstances, priority service customers are contacted by Thames Water’s care team for bottled water deliveries directly to their homes if they are unable to get to a collection hub. The system also gives them advanced warning of planned work which may risk an interruption to their water supply and provides tailored communication services.

Rob said: “I know how important access to clean water is for people living with kidney disease. Even with my transplant, I’ll always be an outpatient as kidney disease does not go away and it’s important that people with these illnesses know what support is available to them – Thames Water has a dedicated service which can help them.” 

People living with kidney disease are a key priority for Thames Water as many need access to water for home dialysis, but the register is also open to a wide range of people including those with mobility problems, chronic illnesses, mental health conditions, parents with young families and pensioners.  

The company has partnered with the Renal Association, who provide professional leadership and advice to the NHS and health system leaders in the UK. Before the coronavirus lockdown the two organisations visited Churchill Hospital to meet its team of renal consultants and to start work promoting and embedding the PSR into new patient forms at the hospital trust. 

Olivia Johnson, vulnerability partnerships manager at Thames Water, said: “We provide life’s essential service and we aim to keep taps flowing every day of the year but sometimes when things go wrong, it helps to have extra support measures in place for our customers who need it most. 

“Supporting customers living with kidney disease is an important part of our work and we’re partnering with the Renal Association and local NHS trusts so we help raise awareness of the priority services register and encourage people living with kidney disease to sign up.”

Ron Cullen, chief executive of the Renal Association, added: “We’re glad to have been able to partner with Thames Water in their proactive approach to support people living with kidney disease and improve the services available to them. Working together, we have strengthened outcomes for vulnerable customers and increased promotion and involvement in Thames Water’s free priority services register.”

Customers can find out if they qualify for the Priority Services Register and sign up by visiting Thames Water website or calling 0800 009 3652. 

Thames Water has also partnered with the National Kidney Federation to encourage people living with kidney disease to sign up to the PSR.