Hepatitis C

NHS drives Hepatitis C prevention as trust introduces screening

University Hospitals Sussex has launched Hepatitis C screening as the health service continues to drive infection prevention faster than international targets.

Unless they choose to opt out, the tests will coincide with routine blood and HIV tests for patients; the latter of which was introduced to Royal Sussex County Hospital’s Emergency Department last April.

University Hospitals Sussex’s Clinical Networks Manager for Hepatitis C and Vascular, Duncan Cresswell, said: “We are very pleased to add Hepatitis C to our blood borne virus screening for emergency care patients at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Hepatitis C is now curable with a simple short course of tablets.

“Following treatment, people cannot pass the virus on. If left untreated, however, Hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage and cancer, so early diagnosis and treatment is incredibly important and now more valuable than ever.

“The County’s emergency department represents a fantastic opportunity to help find undiagnosed and untreated patients and provide them with the support they need to successfully complete treatment.”

The move comes just a few months after the NHS announced it was on track to become one of the first countries in the world to eliminate the threat of Hepatitis C five full years before the World Health Organization’s goal of 2030.

Speaking at the end of last year, NHS England’s National Medical Director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, commented: “Thanks to targeted screening and because the NHS has a proven track record of striking medicine agreements that give patients access to the latest drugs, we are on track to beat global targets and become the first country to eliminate Hepatitis C by 2030 – which will be a landmark achievement.”

Similarly with cancer and other conditions, when blood-borne viruses like Hepatitis C are caught earlier, the patient has a greater chance of leading a longer, healthier life.

The Hepatitis C Trust’s Peer Programme Manager for Sussex, Zoe Yates, added: “This will provide us with an important opportunity to help identify people who may be unknowingly living with Hepatitis C and fast track them into treatment.

“It will also provide us with a platform to re-engage patients who may know they have an active Hepatitis C virus, but who have been lost to follow up and not completed treatment.”

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NHE May/June 2024

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