PHE and NHS England launch hepatitis C patient re-engagement drive

Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England (NHSE) have today launched a national exercise, aimed at re-engaging patients previously diagnosed with hepatitis C but yet to access treatment. 

As part of the exercise, PHE analysed its records to gather information on patients diagnosed but not treated. This information has now been provided to the 22 Operational Delivery Networks, the NHSE bodies that make hepatitis C treatment decisions across England, to enable to them to contact patients to offer them access to the new treatments.

Many patients diagnosed in the past chose not to access treatment due to the significant side effects and low cure rates of the old, interferon-based treatments. With the new direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatments now available, with very few side effects and high cure rates, PHE and NHSE are aiming to re-engage the tens of thousands of previously diagnosed patients with treatment services.

PHE is urging those who may have been at risk of contracting hepatitis C, especially if they have injected drugs, even if only once or in the past, to get tested, as often people with the infection do not have any specific symptoms until their liver has been significantly damaged. Many people do not know they have the infection, and when symptoms do occur they are often mistaken for other conditions, resulting in many people remaining undiagnosed.

Rachel Halford, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said

“We have an extraordinary opportunity to eliminate hepatitis C in the near future if we can ensure all those living with the virus are treated with simple, curative treatments. We know that many people who were previously diagnosed were never treated, and might be unaware that new treatments are now available. This re-engagement exercise will help ensure everything possible is being done to find, treat, and cure those infected and move towards elimination by 2030.”

For further support or information on hepatitis C, you can contact The Hepatitis C Trust’s confidential helpline on 020 7089 6221 or email helpline@hepctrust.org.uk. The helpline is open Monday-Friday from 10.30am-4.30pm and is staffed solely by people who have themselves been affected by hepatitis C.