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Improve hepatitis C services now to prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths, leading clinicians and patient groups tell UK Government

The current state of hepatitis C services in England is unacceptable and a clear action plan is essential to reduce current and impending burden on the health service, save money and most importantly, save lives. This is the finding of a new report launched today calling on Government and key NHS stakeholders to urgently address service provision for these patients.

Deaths from hepatitis C have quadrupled since 1996 and are rising faster than any other disease in the UK’s five “big killers” list.[i],[ii],[iii] Without earlier identification and more treatment, the burden of end stage liver disease, liver cancer and liver disease deaths from hepatitis C will continue to grow for at least the next 20 years.[iii] Treating hepatitis C now is also cheaper than dealing with the consequences of its complications.[iv]

In 2013, leading hepatitis C clinicians, patient and professional groups came together to form the Hepatitis C Coalition, a group committed to the reduction of morbidity and mortality associated with hepatitis C. Their report ‘Vision for Change in Hepatitis C’ sets out 8 clear recommendations to transform the management of hepatitis C, ultimately enabling more people to reach cure.

Patients with hepatitis C in the UK have a greater chance of achieving cure than at any other point in the history of the disease and recent advances in medicines have led some experts to predict that hepatitis C could be eliminated in the UK by 2030. However, despite around 160,000 people being chronically infected with hepatitis C in England alone[iii], service provision is lacking and improvements are needed, so that the potential to eliminate hepatitis C is realised.

The report concludes that if advances in cost effective treatments are matched by improvements in services, the elimination of hepatitis C from the UK is achievable. The 18 organisations who make up the Coalition have called on ministers and political parties to commit to halving hepatitis C related liver cancers and deaths by 2020 and eliminating the virus by 2030.

“We are in a very fortunate position to have cost effective treatments that will cure the majority of hepatitis C patients but we need to find these patients and treat them. To seize this opportunity we need strong national leadership, co-ordination and oversight to ensure patients do not die prematurely when a cure is available,” said Chair, Professor Mark Thursz, Professor of Hepatology at Imperial College and Consultant Hepatologist at St Mary’s Hospital.

The report’s 8 recommendations range from the development of a clear national implementation plan, improvements in diagnosis and screening and timely access to approved medicines.

The Coalition is also appealing to the Department of Health to take lead responsibility for the implementation plan, to ensure a coordinated and effective approach to testing, treating and curing people with the condition and the prevention of new infections.

The Hepatitis C Coalition’s A Vision for Hepatitis C: Test, Treat, Cure including the eight calls for tackling hepatitis C can be viewed at www.hepc-coalition.uk/.

Source

[i] Action needed on liver disease, as CMO takes temperature of the country’s health https://www.gov.uk/government/news/action-needed-on-liver-disease-as-cmo-takes-temperature-of-the-country-s-health (last accessed July 2014)

[ii] The Hepatitis C Trust responds to the Health Secretary’s report on preventable mortality http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/News_Resources/news/2013/March/The+Hepatitis+C+Trust+responds+to+the+Health+Secretary’s+report+on+preventable+mortality (last accessed October 2014)

[iii] Public Health England. Hepatitis C in the UK: 2014 report. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/337115/HCV_in_the_UK_2014_24_July.pdf (last accessed October 2014)

[iv] London Joint Working Group, Public Health Report on Commissioning of HCV services in London for People who Inject Drugs, April 2013

Source: The Hepatitis C Coalition