The chance to eliminate Hep C in England is ‘truly extraordinary’

It’s possible, but we haven’t achieved it yet. Today (20/03/18) a report is being launched in Parliament that outlines what the country needs to do to bring about the elimination of the ‘silent killer’ hepatitis C.

The opening statement of "Eliminating Hepatitis C in England" reads: “The opportunity to eliminate a public health threat like hepatitis C is a truly extraordinary one…England will not fulfil its commitment to elimination by 2030 unless the number of people diagnosed and initiated onto treatment is greatly increased.”

Addaction’s National Lead for Blood Borne Viruses – Helen Hampton – contributed to the report and is at the House of Commons for the launch.

Helen said: “Hepatitis C has few obvious symptoms so people can live with it for years without realising how much damage it is causing to their liver. It’s estimated 71million people are infected and in 2016 alone 400,000 people died from it. Yet it’s curable, treatable and preventable. We really welcome this report and it’s vital the recommendations in it are taken seriously so there are no more needless deaths from this silent killer.”

The report was produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Liver Health and outlines what the group found out during an inquiry they ran in late 2017 into the elimination of hepatitis C in England. The inquiry involved three oral evidence sessions featuring a range of expert stakeholders answering questions from APPG members, and written evidence was received from a range of individuals and organisations. Based on this information, the report then makes a series of recommendations for further action if England is to meet its goal of relegating hepatitis C to an extremely rare infection alongside diseases of the past like polio and measles by 2030 – a global target set by the World Health Organisation.

A key recommendation is to develop a national elimination strategy that ensures there is universal access to treatment and uses bold outreach and incentives to find those still undiagnosed and living with HCV. Other recommendations include:

  • Testing in prisons, substance misuse services and sexual health clinics should be routine with more ambitious targets.
  • Referral pathways for then receiving treatment should be simplified, ideally starting treatment on the same day as diagnosis.
  • National targets for treatment should be set, with flexible, accessible treatment available in community settings.
  • Long term funding that is equitably distributed should ensure ‘no one is left behind’
  • Data collection should be improved to help monitor progress and additional research on bold, innovative approaches should take place so that best practice can be upscaled to help the national picture.

The report cites work at Addaction Cornwall where staff have achieved extremely high testing rates. Helen, who is based at Addaction Cornwall said: “Addaction clients are a key group when it comes to blood borne viruses. We want to be at the forefront of innovative work to make sure our clients are in the best place to live health lives.”

Background information:

  • It’s estimated that 92 percent of infections diagnosed with Hep C in England are acquired through injecting drugs.
  • Approximately half of those who inject drugs are thought to be infected.
  • According to research there was a higher prevalence of Hep C infection among people who inject drugs in 2016 than there was ten years ago. Evidence suggests they increased by over 20 percent over this period. By comparison HIV prevalence among people who inject drugs has reduced by almost 50 percent over the same time.