Introduction

European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes (ENCKEP) is a network supported by COST for 4 years from September 2016 to September 2020. The research topic of the network is as follows.

About one per thousand European citizens suffers from end stage renal disease, with kidney transplantation being the most effective form of treatment. However, deceased donor kidney transplantation is severely limited by availability and approximately 40% of living donors are incompatible with their specified recipient, and hence there may be obstacles that rule out these forms of transplantation for many patients.

In an attempt to circumvent this shortage problem, and give an additional alternative of transplant to patients, several European countries have independently developed Kidney Exchange  Programmes (KEPs). In these programmes, a patient with a willing but incompatible donor can “swap” his / her donor with that of another patient in a similar position. KEPs vary regarding the solutions provided for the problems in (i) the policy domain (prioritisation, equity, and accessibility), (ii) the clinical domain (clinical practice and evidence), and (iii) the optimisation domain (methods to solve the hard dynamic multi-criteria matching problems which take clinical evidence and health policy into account).

Policies for deceased donors, as coordinated by three existing European transplantation organisations, allow organs to be exchanged between countries. By contrast, KEPs tend to follow isolated national policies and no collaboration (in terms of the joint management of programmes) currently exists. Exchange of best practice is also very scarce. Collaboration poses enormous challenges for new research and investigation, especially if the aim is to truly reflect the characteristics of a transnational European KEP, and to ensure that the outcomes and results are viable and acceptable to all participants.

ENCKEP will bring together policy makers, clinicians, economists, social scientists and optimisation experts in Europe in order to establish and foster a preferential discussion channel for the various essential themes that have to be addressed for the implementation of a collaborative KEP. The forums of discussion and initiatives taken by the Action will foment: (i) the exchange of best KEP practices and (ii) corresponding state of the art science as developed within national research programmes, (iii) development and testing of Technology in the form of a prototype transnational KEP on the basis of common state-of-the-art standards, and subsequent assessment (through simulation) of the improvement potential using real life patient-donor data (Societal Application), and (iv) outreach to non-participating (inter)national policy makers to promote advancements of (trans)national KEPs, as are critical for the (quality of) life of a growing European patient population.