Nurse Consultant in Viral Hepatitis, Royal Hallamshire Hospital
Bringing hepatitis C services to those most in need is helping people in South Yorkshire believe in themselves and make meaningful change.
For many people living with drug and alcohol problems, clearing a hepatitis C infection may be a catalyst for turning their lives around.
The virus, which attacks the liver and can result in disease and liver cancer, is predominantly spread by sharing needles, meaning it disproportionately affects some of the most vulnerable.
Mark Cassell, a nurse consultant in viral hepatitis at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, says: “Treating hepatitis C isn’t a priority for many of our patients because they have so many other challenges to deal with – where they are going to sleep, or how they are going to eat, their current challenges with substance use, and significant mental health issues.
“They tend to have lifestyle issues. Sometimes, people can’t travel to the hospital or find it difficult to remember appointments. Many have very low feelings of self-worth and don’t believe they should or would qualify for treatment.”
Bringing hepatitis C services to those most in need, is helping people in South Yorkshire believe in themselves and make meaningful change
Hepatitis C treatment can take between two and six months and involves a series of clinic appointments. So, instead of asking patients to come to him, Mark goes to them.
“I hold joint clinics with the nurse prescriber. When someone comes for review of their drug substitution therapy, they see me too, dual care delivery” he explained.
Around 150 people have successfully commenced treatment since the project launched in South Yorkshire in 2017 and the results have been startling.
Mark says: “Success breeds success. For a lot of people, the sense of achievement that comes with successfully clearing the virus has led to them reengaging with other services. One patient, for example, became abstinent from alcohol for the first time in 20 years after going through treatment.”
Believing in people, he said, was the key to helping them to believe in themselves.
Gilead Sciences Ltd have contributed to and funded this content. UK-HCV-2020-04-0016 Date of prep May 2020