VOL: 98, ISSUE: 43, PAGE NO: 29
Louise Tiffen, BSc, RGN, is addiction therapist, St Martin's Practice, LeedsIn August the Department of Health published Hepatitis C Strategy for England, a document that is out for consultation until November 15. The first strategy of its kind, it recognises that the virus is an important public health challenge that has the potential to be an enormous burden on the UK, where the majority of those infected with it use injected drugs.
In August the Department of Health published Hepatitis C Strategy for England, a document that is out for consultation until November 15. The first strategy of its kind, it recognises that the virus is an important public health challenge that has the potential to be an enormous burden on the UK, where the majority of those infected with it use injected drugs.
The need for a separate strategy for hepatitis C was identified in Getting Ahead of the Curve, a discussion paper on infectious diseases and health promotion that was published earlier this year.
The key aims of the hepatitis C strategy include: prevention, identifying those infected and improving access to appropriate services.
Its implementation will necessitate widespread change, but educational and developmental needs may have to be identified and met. As multiskilled professionals, nurses can play a key role in improving patient care, promoting health and enabling behavioural change (see p30). They are in an ideal position to embrace the challenge.
The aims will be achieved using a three-pronged approach of education, testing and treatment. A campaign to raise awareness of hepatitis C will be launched. It will target those at risk of infection.
Drug treatment centres, GP practices, genitourinary medicine clinics and prisons will be required to offer improved access to advice and testing. Increased testing for hepatitis C will lead to a rise in the number of confirmed cases of infection and, subsequently, a decrease in the number of people not aware of their infection.
Treatment centres will need to be accessible to enable optimum care. This requires the development of clear pathways between specialised hepatology teams and other services, including drug clinics, prisons and primary care. The strategy proposes that specialist services for hepatitis C include an expert clinician - preferably a hepatologist - and a hepatitis nurse, and have access to an accredited viral laboratory, a liver pathologist and a radiology department.
While many aspects of this strategy are extremely positive, there are still concerns and questions about the commissioning and management of such services. However, primary care trusts will be responsible for ensuring that they respond to local needs.n
- The Hepatitis C Strategy for England is available at: www.doh.gov.uk/cmo/hcvstrategy/hcvstratsum.htm
- Getting Ahead of the Curve: A Strategy for Combating Infectious Diseases (including other aspects of health protection) is at: www.doh.gov.uk/cmo/idstrategy