A new report, published by The Hepatitis C Trust, has found that hepatitis C is grossly under-prioritised in England. Despite it being curable, only 3% of people receive treatment each year.1
The report highlights that the virus affects the poorest in society who account for almost half of all hepatitis C hospital admissions.2 In addition, deaths and hospital admissions for hepatitis C-related end stage liver disease and liver cancer have nearly quadrupled in the last 15 years.3 In 2010/11 alone, up to £22 million was spent on emergency hospital admissions caused by potentially avoidable hepatitis C complications.4
Entitled The Uncomfortable Truth: Hepatitis C in England, the report aims to shine a light on this overlooked condition and the reality of care for the thousands of people with hepatitis C.
The report also shows that of the 160,000 people living with the virus in England,5 half are undiagnosed6,7 and at risk of developing life threatening liver disease.
Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: "There must be no more excuses for the rising tide of deaths from hepatitis C. It is a preventable and curable virus, yet huge numbers of people still remain undiagnosed and a mere 3% of patients are receiving treatment each year.
"Many people with hepatitis C face a postcode lottery of care due to the lack of a national liver strategy. Four years after it was promised the Government is yet to confirm a publication date for a National Liver Strategy.
"Yet instead of letting this virus continue to take the lives of the poorest fastest, we could effectively eradicate it in England within a generation. However, to do this we must diagnose and offer care to everyone, regardless of their geographical location or background."
Professor Graham Foster, Consultant Hepatologist at Barts and The London NHS Trust, said: "It is a travesty that increasing numbers of patients on our wards are dying from hepatitis C when so many with early liver disease can be cured and protected from liver damage."
"With concerted national and local efforts, emergency admissions for hepatitis C could be minimal. Hepatitis C patients who are diagnosed with cirrhosis or liver cancer have been failed by the NHS."
The report also provides recommendations for the eradication of the disease in England including prioritisation of hepatitis C by Public Health England and local authorities, greater public awareness, and the development of local referral pathways and support mechanisms to ensure people are referred to specialist care.