The timing of referral for creation of vascular access in a patient with declining kidney function is difficult to predict. Current methods may result in patients undergoing unnecessary procedures and subsequent interventions on accesses that are never used. Multiple variables, including time for assessment, surgery and follow-up that considers the likelihood of access failure, and the estimated rate of kidney function decline, make vascular access planning challenging and difficult to balance. Better prediction tools that incorporate the risks of progressive decline in kidney function with the risk of access failure and the competing risk of death would facilitate decision-making in vascular access. The kidney failure risk equation is a validated, simple online tool that estimates the probability of the 2- and 5-year risk of reaching end-stage kidney disease. While the use of the kidney failure risk equation has not been validated as an adjunct to planning vascular access, it has potential and may facilitate more individualised care and more appropriate allocation of resources.