Impact of utilising risk-based stratification on referral of patients with chronic kidney disease from primary care to specialist care in the UK

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Introduction: The externally validated Kidney Failure Risk Equation (KFRE) for predicting risk of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) has been developed, but its potential impact in a population on referrals for patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) from primary to specialty nephrology care is not known.

Methods: A cross-sectional population-based study of individuals in United Kingdom primary care registered in The Health Improvement Network database was conducted. National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) 2014 CKD guidelines versus the 4-variable KFRE set at a >3% risk of ESRD at 5 years were applied to patients identified with CKD stage 3-5 between January 1, 2016, and March 31, 2017.

Results: In all, 39,476 (36.6%) of 107,962 adults with CKD stage 3-5 had a urine albumin:creatinine ratio (ACR) available and entered into the primary analysis. Of that, 7566 (19.2%) patients fulfilled NICE criteria for referral, 2386 (31.5%) of whom had a ≤3% 5-year risk of ESRD. Also 8663 (21.9%) patients had a >3% 5-year risk of ESRD, 3483 (40.2%) of whom did not fulfill NICE criteria; this represents 8.8% of the primary population. By using the KFRE threshold rather than NICE criteria for referral, 5869 patients (14.9% of the primary analysis population) would have been reallocated between primary and specialist care. Imputational analysis was used for missing ACR measurements and showed similar results.

Conclusions: A risk-based referral approach would lead to a substantial reallocation of patients between primary care and specialist nephrology care with only a small increase in numbers eligible, ensuring those at higher risk of progression are identified.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2189-2199
Number of pages11
JournalKidney International Reports
Issue number8
Early online date1 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • chronic kidney disease, cross-sectional study, disease progression, guidelines, kidney failure risk equation, patient referral

ASJC Scopus subject areas