Professor Graham Foster FRCP PhD
Hepatitis C Programme Clinical Chair for NHS England and NHS Improvement
“As part of the NHS Long Term Plan the health service is committed to eliminating Hepatitis C, with the most advanced treatments and smart deals with pharmaceutical firms which are not only good news for patients and their families, but taxpayers too.”
Hepatitis C not only affects the liver but can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue and problems concentrating. However, they can improve dramatically once treated effectively and we are already starting to see an impact from the NHS’s hepatitis C elimination programme.
Who are the high-risk individuals in this remit?
Hepatitis C is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. In the UK, most infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past. However, it can also be spread through sharing razors or toothbrushes, or from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby.
What diagnosis and treatment options are available to high-risk individuals?
People at risk of hepatitis C can be tested via their GP, addiction centre, or sexual health clinic. For those who are infected, the amount of damage to the liver can easily be assessed by a special, modified ultrasound scan, that can be performed at multiple locations. Treatment can then be introduced without delay.
Current treatments for hepatitis C include a course of highly-effective tablets. Increasingly, the NHS is able to provide the full range of diagnostic and treatment services outside of a hospital setting. This allows some of the most marginalised populations, including those who are experiencing homelessness, to access highly-effective treatment.
How important is cross-industry collaboration on the road to elimination?
The cross-industry collaboration is a key component of the NHS elimination campaign. Each company brings slightly different approaches to the programme and the collaboration has allowed the NHS to maximise the joint capabilities, enabling us to access some of the most disadvantaged groups in society and increase testing and treatment.
Can we be optimistic about the prospect of hepatitis C elimination in the UK ahead of 2030?
There are a number of challenges ahead but progress to-date, and the commitment from the health and social care sector, gives us confidence that elimination ahead of the global 2030 target can be achieved.
Gilead Sciences Ltd have contributed to and funded this content. UK-HCV-2020-04-0019 Date of prep: May 2020