Hepatitis C

NHS steps up fight to eliminate Hepatitis C

NHS England (NHSE) is stepping up its efforts to eliminate hepatitis C through a pioneering pharmaceutical deal, community healthcare initiatives, and digital health investment.

NHSE is investing £4.2m into 25 FibroScan machines to roll them out in community care settings and other areas where certain patients may be, in a bid to catch hepatitis C symptoms earlier. This in turn will help diagnose things like liver disease and liver cancer earlier too.

The health service has also acquired 34 Cepheid GeneXpert testing units to expand their deployment into community settings like GP services and prisons – this is to access those who may struggle to meet appointments such as homeless people and drug users. The technology can identify a hepatitis C infection within one hour.

Further bolstering the move to eliminate hepatitis C as a global health threat is the extension of a pharmaceutical deal with AbbVie, Merck Sharp and Dohme, and Gilead Sciences. This agreement will provide NHSE with the latest antiviral medicines for another two years, adding onto the deal originally made in 2019.

“This investment ensures the NHS will continue to save thousands of lives…”

The NHS is hoping to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat several years ahead of the World Health Organisation’s 2030 target, potentially becoming the first country in the world to do so.

Since the elimination programme started in 2015, approximately 84,000 people have been treated for hepatitis C and England has seen a 37% reduction in hepatitis C deaths. Despite this, it is still estimated that 60,000 people may still be living with chronic hepatitis C without knowing in England.

“This investment ensures the NHS will continue to save thousands of lives and set the international standard in the drive to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030 and, while tackling a significant health inequality,” explained NHSE’s national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis.

Since the organisation’s founding more than two decades ago, the Hepatitis C Trust’s CEO, Rachel Halford, describes the progress made in patient care and treatment as beyond anything imaginable. She added that the success of the elimination programme proves the effectiveness of innovative partnership working.

Rachel said: “Extending the programme ensures the continuation of this remarkable progress and sets the stage for maintaining elimination in the future.”

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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