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The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh was established in 1729. A detailed history is available from the University's Faculty of Medicine pages. Dialysis was first performed in Edinburgh in 1958. In 2003 the renal unit moved to the new Royal Infirmary site at Little France, near Craigmillar Castle (see illustration).

Closely associated Research teams (the Renal and Autoimmunity Group, and the Phagocyte Interest Group) occupy space within the Medical School. These and other related research groups will move to a new research institute adjacent to the Royal Infirmary at Little France in 2004/5.

Show maps of the Royal Infirmary and region.

LEFT The new Royal Infirmary, from the NHS LUHT site; MIDDLE nearby Craigmillar Castle, from the Gazeteer for Scotland; RIGHT the old Royal Infirmary

Until 2003 the Renal Unit occupied a 1960s prefabricated wing and some ageing 'Nightingale' type wards at the historic Royal Infirmary in the centre of Edinburgh. The first renal transplant in Britain was performed in Edinburgh in 1961. Read more about the history of dialysis and transplantation in Edinburgh.

The clinical service - information for staff and others

Dialysis was first provided in Edinburgh in 1959 (read more about history). Now we care for about 350 patients on dialysis, over 250 local patients who have functioning renal transplants, and 150-300 patients each year (depending on definition) who have developed acute renal failure.

Acute renal failure
The acute service is based on the HDU (high dependency unit) which occupies Ward 115 and has 6 in-patient beds. Patients looked after on the Unit have a high level of dependency and a need for close monitoring, and can have continuous or intermittent dialysis or haemofiltration performed. The acute service also looks after patients in ITU, HDU and ward areas all over the hospital and in other local hospitals, and some lower dependency patients on the Renal wards. Numbers on the books at one time may vary from 10-25. In any one month, medical input to the service is provided by a consultant and a member of the middle grade medical staff with one of the SHOs. Nursing staff on the acute unit also provide renal replacement therapies on intensive care units and HDUs elsewhere in the hospital.

Consultants and trainees rotate to the
Transplant Unit where they share care of inpatients with transplant surgeons, usually for one month at a time. There is a joint medical/ surgical ward round every morning. Responsibilities here are truly joint, and the success of these arrangements is a major advantage for patients and staff, and an attraction to working on the unit. About 60-70 renal transplants are performed annually, and the Unit also undertakes liver and pancreas transplants.
Middle-grade cover for day to day matters is the responsibility of the nephrology registrar attached to the unit, and out of hours, of the on-call nephrology registrar. Outpatient clinics are managed separately to maintain long-term continuity, run by three consultant nephrologists and two consultant surgeons, with middle-grade staff.
Nursing staff on the Unit are separate from those covering the rest of Nephrology, although the Unit is one of the areas involved as part of the two major nephrology nursing courses in Edinburgh (see below).

General inpatient nephrology
25 inpatient beds provide the inpatient area for general nephrology on ward 206 at the Royal Infirmary. Patients cared for on these wards include those admitted briefly for investigation or treatment of renal disease, patients with pre-existing renal disease complicated by intercurrent illness, and dialysis patients with problems related or unrelated to their renal failure or dialysis. In-patient care is supervised by one of the consultant nephrologists each month, with a middle grade member of staff and two or three SHOs.

Maintenance dialysis
for outpatients is performed at four Units in and around Edinburgh. The units are:

  • MRU (ODA, Outpatient dialysis area) at the Royal Infirmary - this has 26 stations operating 3 shifts daily, supervised by a staff grade doctor, middle grade doctors in training, and four consultant nephrologists.
  • Western General Hospital satellite unit - 9 stations operating 3 shifts daily. WGH is a major hospital on the other side of Edinburgh. Patients are supervised by a consultant nephrologist and by middle grade staff.
  • Borders General Hospital satellite unit - 6 stations operating 2 shifts daily . BGH is located in Melrose, about an hour's travel south from Edinburgh, in the Borders region. Patients are supervised by a consultant nephrologist at regular clinics at BGH. Medical emergencies can be dealt with at the hospital in Melrose before transfer. (see the BGH Unit webpages)
  • St Johns Hospital satellite unit - at Livingstone, West Lothian - .

Home haemodialysis remains a very good treatment for those patients who can manage it, but numbers are now low, as most of the patients best suited to it are also suitable for renal transplantation. Like home peritoneal dialysis, it is managed through the Community Dialysis Team. Read more about the Community Dialysis Team.

Peritoneal dialysis is undertaken by patients at home supervised by the Community Dialysis Team. Most patients are receiving CAPD but many carry out automated PD at night. About 20% of the long-term dialysis patient population are receiving peritoneal dialysis.

General outpatient nephrology
More than twelve outpatient sessions are provided each week in general nephrology (ie excluding care of dialysis and transplant patients), over half by consultant staff. Clinics take place at the Royal Infirmary, Western General Hospital, at St John's Hospital in West Lothian, and from April 2005 at the Borders General Hospital in Melrose.

Vascular access and PD catheters
Surgery to provide vascular access is provided by either the vascular surgical team or by the transplant team. Many semi-permanent lines and percutaneous interventions to salvage or modify vascular access are carried out in the Department of Radiology. PD catheters are inserted surgically by the transplant team.


Working on the Edinburgh Renal Unit

Medical staff include five full-time consultant nephrologists, and four consultant academic staff, who also have major research and teaching responsibilities.
Edinburgh has 7 training posts for middle-grade staff, some of whom are also training in General Internal Medicine (GIM). The dual training programme takes at least 5 years, some of which usually takes place outside Edinburgh. Training in nephrology as a single specialty takes 4 years (at least 3 of clinical nephrology) - this is increasingly popular. Six months of nephrology training is likely to be in Dunfermline, Fife (30-40 minutes from Edinburgh), where there are three consultant nephrologists, all of whom also undertake general medicine.
While in Edinburgh trainees rotate through the first four major clinical areas mentioned above. The service provided by these trainees is supplemented by an Associate Specialist and a Staff Grade doctor with major responsibilities on the dialysis unit.
There is a very strong research interest and track record in Edinburgh. Many of our trainees have either come from, or go on to, substantial research posts supported by major research bodies such as the Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, or the National Kidney Research Fund.
Immediate care for inpatients is provided by a group of rotating SHOs (senior house officers), junior doctors with 1 to 3 years of experience who are training in general medicine. Their attachments to the unit are commonly for 4 months before they rotate to another speciality.

Vacancies are advertised through NHS Education Scotland (NES).

Over 100 nurses are involved in the care of patients attending the Unit. Each clinical area has one 'G grade' senior charge nurse responsible for day to day care and supervision. Senior clinical posts include anaemia coordinator, education coordinator, vascular access coordinator, conservative care specialist.

The Unit provides a high level of education and training for all levels of staff. An in-house programme 'Nephrology and Renal Transplantation' has been developed for junior staff on the Renal and Transplant Units. Two modules are accredited through Napier University, contibuting to a BSc. The first is a 15 week Theory module, which is combined with clinical work. Assessment includes an essay. The second module of 48 weeks is practical, involving rotation through all areas of the unit, and assessed in clinically defined competencies. The Edinburgh Critical Care Course is run within the NHS Trust in two modules. The first is an update on critical care, lasting 6 months. It is followed by six-week placements in three of six critical care areas within the trust, followed by 12 weeks in the home unit with study days and an elective placement (often overseas) to study an area in detail. This is accredited by NHS Education for Scotland and leads to a Certificate in Critical Care Nursing, but is also accredited through Edinburgh University and can contribute to an MSc. For more information on training opportunities contact

Nursing vacancies are advertised in various ways but some at least are available via the SHOW website - click for further information.

We are fortunate to have exceptional support from technicians, dietitians, pharmacists and social workers with specific responsibility for the Unit. Some of these are described on other pages.

More on dietitians in the past and now ... More on social work support ... More on pharmacy .... More on technical services ... More on Occupational therapy ...


Teaching and research

Edinburgh has a leading research-based university, and its medical school is among the highest ranking in research record and in competitiveness for entry in the UK. This is supported by a very strong tradition of supporting medical education at the highest levels in Edinburgh. Many historically famous physicians have been trained in Edinburgh, and several major textbooks still come from Edinburgh. More information is provided on other pages.

More about the Medical School. More about the University of Edinburgh. More about renal research in Edinburgh.


Planning for the future

A Renal Review for the Lothian region was set up by the Health Board (responsible for commissioning renal services) and the Trust (responsible for provision) in 1999. It was intended to set out requirements for the next 5-10 years. A report was presented in August/September 1999 and a further review is in progress in 2006. The 1999 report foresaw a need for a steady expansion of hospital-based haemodialysis. Funding for this plan was agreed following a close examination of outcomes achieved by the Unit. A short version of the report can be downloaded and a summary of the outcomes data is provided on-line.

An option appraisal during 2001 recommended provision of haemodialysis places for an extra 36 patients within Edinburgh by 2003-4, and 24 further places at a new satellite unit in West Lothian by 2004-5. Expansion of provision at the Borders General Hospital from 8 to 12 patients was also envisaged. This plan was approved by Lothian Health Board part of the plan on 30th January 2002.

The increase in patients needing hospital haemodialysis closely followed the 1999 predictions. We are now at the capacity of this extra space and option appraisals are again under way for provision of capacity over the next decade. The 9 haemodialysis stations at the Western General Hospital will also need to be relocated soon as they are in temporary space.

Download the short version of the 1999 Renal Review as a pdf file. If you would like to see the full report it can be obtained from us at You can also go to outcomes data.


Contacting the Unit

Details are as follows. Prefix telephone numbers with (0)131 if calling from outside Edinburgh:

Postal address Renal Medicine
Royal Infirmary
Little France
Edinburgh EH16 4SA
Scotland, UK

Clinic appointments (for current patients. GPs call consultants' secretaries)


242 1231/2

242 1233

General enquiries

242 1233

RIE Switchboard (emergency enquiries to the Renal Registrar) 536 1000
Email advice line See GP pages

Consultants secretaries

Dr CE Whitworth
Prof AN Turner
Dr RG Phelps
Dr J Hughes
Dr P Gibson
Dr J Goddard
Dr W Metcalfe
Dr J Neary
Dr S Watson

Or use switchboard for urgent calls

242 1235
242 9167
242 9167
242 6563
242 1239
242 1234
242 1236
242 1244
242 1236

Dialysis Units and outpatient support

RIE main dialysis unit (MRU )
WGH satellite unit
BGH satellite unit
St John's satellite unit
Dr M Dimova 
Community dialysis team
Anaemia coordinator
Holiday Dialysis Coordinator (Anushka)
Technician manager (John Ramsay)
Operations managers


242 1201/1208
537 1879/2566
01896 826637
01506 523887
242 1247 or bleep 2196
242 1218/1219
242 1204 or bleep
242 1234
242 1251
242 1213/4/5

Supporting services and training

Education coordinator (Sr Anne Petherick)

Renal dietitians

Social work team
Computing manager (Klavs Zarins)


242 1203
242 1255
242 1202
242 1226



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This page last modified 28.02.2017 11:50 by Emma Farrell. edren and edrep are produced by the Renal Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh. CAUTIONS and Contact us.