Hospital admissions and deaths from hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection are rising and constitute a serious public health issue. Yet a new report from HCV Action has found that health and wellbeing boards are failing to make hepatitis C a priority.
NICE Public Health Guidance recommends that hepatitis B and C should be included in a health and wellbeing board’s joint strategic needs assessment. Despite this, evidence gathered by HCV Action and The Hepatitis C Trust from the most recent Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) and Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategies (JHWS), has found that:
- The prioritisation of hepatitis C is shockingly low
- Even in those areas where hepatitis C is high in prevalence, it is often not considered in needs assessments and strategies; just 3 of the top 10 areas of high prevalence have a detailed needs assessment of hepatitis C
- 52% of health and wellbeing boards fail to mention hepatitis C at all within their JSNAs or in their JHWS
- Only 5% of JSNAs have a specific section dedicated to hepatitis C
- A further third only give hepatitis C an isolated mention within other contexts
The Hepatitis C Trust and HCV Action report includes calls for health and wellbeing boards to work with local partners to raise awareness about hepatitis C amongst the general population and at-risk groups.
Charles Gore, Chief Executive, The Hepatitis C Trust, comments;
“We are, for the first time, in a position to eliminate hepatitis C from England with new treatment options becoming available. With hospital admissions and deaths from hepatitis C rising and a clear national ambition within the Public Health Outcomes Framework and NHS Outcomes Framework to decrease deaths from liver disease, addressing hepatitis C should be a key priority area for local health boards. As a first step towards tackling these issues and making the elimination of hepatitis C from England a reality, health and wellbeing boards need to assess their local situation and to prioritise diagnosing and treating patients in their local area”.
The full report can be read here.