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NHS England launches hepatitis C screening scheme to reach 2030 elimination goal

The new scheme could help diagnose up to 80,000 people who do not know they have hepatitis C

NHS

NHS England has announced that thousands of people in the UK will be screened for hepatitis C in a new pilot, driving forward the global goal set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to eliminate the virus by 2030.

The new scheme, set to begin next month until spring 2023, could help up to 80,000 people who do not know they have hepatitis C to get a life-saving diagnosis and treatment sooner, NHS England said.

People who might have the virus will be identified by health records searches for a number of key hepatitis C risk factors, such as historic blood transfusions or those diagnosed with HIV. Those identified will be invited for a review by their GP and, if appropriate, further screening.

An estimated 81,000 people in England currently have hepatitis C, according to latest UK Health Security Agency data. The blood-borne virus infects the liver and, if left untreated, can cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years.

Commenting on the scheme, Graham Foster, national clinical chair for the NHS England’s Hepatitis C Elimination Programmes, said: “This pilot marks a significant step forward in our fight to eliminate chronic hepatitis C in England by 2030 by enabling the NHS to use new software to identify and test patients most at risk from the virus – potentially saving thousands of lives.

“Hepatitis C can be a fatal disease which affects tens of thousands across the country but with unlimited access to NHS treatments, innovative patient finding initiatives such as this one, community outreach projects such as liver trucks to detect liver damage on the spot – we will continue to boost the life chances of thousands of patients by catching the virus even earlier.”

NHS staff are also visiting at-risk communities in specially equipped trucks to test for the virus and carry out live health checks, involving an on-the-spot fibrosis scan.

Article by
Emily Kimber

9th August 2022

From: Healthcare

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