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Hepatitis C care quality condemned by MPs


Wide variations in hepatitis C treatment are contributing to a 60% rise in the number of people dying from liver disease over the past decade, MPs have warned.

Although hepatitis C’s exact contribution to rising mortality is difficult to calculate, the report from the All-Party Parliamentary Hepatology Group said it was certainly “underestimated” because so few people are diagnosed andcondemned the wide variation in the quality of patient services in NHS hospitals.

Liver disease is the fifth biggest killer after heart disease, cancer, stroke and lung disorders, and the number of deaths is rising by about 8% per year. It killed more than 10,000 people in the UK in 2008. Common causes include alcoholism, but hepatitis C is a growing contributory factor, according to MPs.

Many of the 250,000 to 466,000 people living with hepatitis C in the UK currently have no idea they have the disease because it can remain symptomless for many years. Around 13,000 people are newly infected every year but only about a third receive treatment which has been shown to cure half of cases, said the report. Success rates with treatment varies widely between hospitals, from just 10% of patients treated to 100%.

Furthermore, the UK’s use of hepatitis C drugs is the second lowest out of 14 comparable countries.

The report, In The Dark, pointed to a “worrying shortage of basic monitoring in hepatitis C services, such as numbers of patients referred, numbers offered treatment, numbers initiating treatment and treatment results”.

This has a negative impact on local and national planning of services while some hospitals refuse to treat drug-users, contrary to national guidance.

The number of people living with cirrhosis of the liver caused by hepatitis C is expected to rise by more than a third to 10,960 by 2015.


Readers' comments (6)

  • I am a victim of this killer virus.
    I was infected when I received infected NHS treatment for my haemophilia,
    The Government received several warnings of the dangers and risk to human life if they continued to use blood products coming from paid donors from the USA, donors serving prison sentences, donors from skid row and donors who had drug habits.
    The UK government were fully aware of the dangers that could be hidden in the treatment we haemophiliacs were receiving, but did nothing.
    For at least the last 20 years the UK government have done their best to keep this disaster a secret, over 2000 haemophiliacs have lost their lives, not to the blood disorder we were born with, but from a illness that was inflicted on us as a result of government attempts to save money, an attempt that is now costing people their lives.

    Thanks for killing me.

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  • I was a blood donor so cannot understand why blood products were used from USA - I stopped being a blood donor because when I went to be a bone marrow donor I was refused on the grounds that I'd had Hep A as a child - with no long term problems. I could understand the policy re: Hep B & C but not A. The doctor running the screening was also unable to give a reason why I was not suitable. Until the donor service start to register serious donors who are willing to undergo full screening based on logic and science rather than cost and emotional over- reactions people like Mike will continue to be at the mercy of all this nonsense.

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  • Mike - your frustration and anger at this situation rings out within your comment and is understandable. I truely hope that it doesn't stop you moving on but inspires you to advance constructive change and live positively... (genuinely meant - hope it doesn't sound patronising or dismissive)

    World Hepatitis Day is 19th May every year: we need to get the word out about hepatitis C and stop the stigma related to it. Especially on this day, but also on other days! This can facilitate earlier testing, diagnosis and cure through treatment. The trials regarding newer treatments for genotype 1 are encouraging and of course the success rate for genotypes 2 and 3 are already good.

    Fortunately the treatments, which are very expensive, are free in the UK through the NHS. I understand that this doesn't make people feel fortunate if they consider that it was negligence that caused their infection initially - see - .

    Support all those voluntary organisations that are campaigning for awareness, de-stigmatisation and change. See the Hepatitis C Trust or visit your local Hep C support group to see what you can do!

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  • Links didin't come out - they may not in this comment either but it's worth a try.

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  • Ann, I would just like to say, with all due respect that with all your good intention, its not your life that has been affected by the neglegence of the NHS. I was unfortunate enough to recieve blood products following the birth of my daughter in the 80's. I recieved 6 units of blood, several units of fresh frozen plasma, & numerous packs of platelets. I have no history of intravenous drug use (but most health care professionals assume i have! ) & have been told by The Skipton fund (the body set up to compensate individuals who have contracted Hep C from blood products) that I must have contracted Hep C via a small tattoo on my arm, which was done whilst i was a teenager in the 70's. However, my heptolagist has advised me that in her opinion, the most likely route of transmission is by the blood products that I recieved in the 80's. However, to date has not supported me in my claim to the skipton fund. As an employee of the NHS I have "come out" of the Hep-C closet in disgust at the way myself & other Hep-C positive individuals have been treated. I have researched this issue & from what I understand, the NHS distroyed documentation relating to possible contaminated blood products & whom recieved them. It seem's in an apparent attempt to cover their tracks, thus absolving themselves of any responsibilty & financial compensation. I also have an issue with the way that injecting addicts where denided acess to needle exchange faclities, when the World Health Organization recomended that goverments of the world provide such facilities. Amercia, at once set about setting up a public health campaign, contacting all at risk groups offering testing, needle exchange, councilling & treatment.. The british goverment (oddly enough) did NOTHING! My diagnosis is potentially life limiting & potentially affects my career progression within the NHS. Cheer's for that!

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  • Anonymous, 4-Sep-2010 1:07 am ... I wouldn't assume that Anne has not been affected by NHS negligence: she does not mention whether she has or not. She appears to imply that there are different ways of coping with the 'loss process' such negligence brings with it and hopes that people can eventually move forward positively rather than the challenges of a hepatitis C diagnosis being compounded further by (understandable and at times debilitating) frustration, anger and bitterness. I think she implies that these emotions, where they perhaps don't resolve, can be used positively to campaign and work for productive improvements and de-stigmatise hepatitis C diagnoses? That's how I took it, although maybe I am wrong? Personally, I've seen this stance applied to many other negligences related to sports, work accidents, school rules and politics and healthcare too. Gandhi used a similar philosophy, if I remember rightly: it's age old...

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