The Department of Health's FaCe It campaign has launched this week a new guide for primary care professionals providing essential information on the virus. With epidemiological surveillance suggesting that the majority of people in England with hepatitis C may not be diagnosed, the leaflet aims to support GPs in identifying and testing patients at risk of infection.
Developed in consultation with a professional panel, the leaflet provides GPs with a handy and concise overview of hepatitis C from diagnosis to treatment, recommending how patients with hepatitis C should be managed through testing, diagnosis and referral to a specialist.
Most patients with hepatitis C will not realise that they have the virus as it can take years or even decades for symptoms to appear. Antiviral drug therapy, however, is effective at clearing the virus in the majority of people overall and preventing progression to serious liver disease, which is why early testing is being recommended for those patients at past or current risk of infection.
The launch of the new resource is timed to coincide with the latest hepatitis C press and radio advertising campaign which encourages people to find out if they could be at risk from hepatitis C. With this in mind, the availability of this resource will help provide primary care professionals with the answers they need to cope with the increasing numbers of enquiries.
Professor Howard Thomas, Clinical Professor, Imperial College London said:
"With the Department's advertising campaign and the recent announcement by Dame Anita Roddick helping to raise awareness of hepatitis C, healthcare professionals need to be better informed about the virus. GPs need accessible information at their fingertips and the Hepatitis C quick reference guide for primary care gets essential information into the hands of GPs in a quick and straightforward manner. Because treatment is curative in the majority of cases, it has never been more important to identify those infected."
Dr Martyn Wake, GP from Wimbledon commented,
"GPs have an important role to play in identifying and offering testing to patients who might be at risk of hepatitis C infection so that they can be referred to a specialist. We hope that this leaflet will be a useful tool for GPs. Alertness in our profession will make a crucial contribution to ensuring that more patients are diagnosed and treated."
The leaflet will be distributed to all GP practice managers this week and complements a suite of hepatitis C resources including posters, patient leaflets and a guide to the hepatitis C virus produced by the FaCe It campaign. All materials can be ordered for free by contacting the Department of Health's publications line (08701 555 455) or by fax (01623 724 524) or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com>
The Hepatitis C Information Line on 0800 451 451 (textphone 0800 0850859) is open from 7am-11pm, 7 days a week for confidential information and advice for both the general public and healthcare professionals.