GPs 'unsupported' to tackle hepatitis C, says charity

PCTs have not done enough to encourage GP practices to test for hepatitis C and a failure to plan future services could lead to soaring NHS costs, a charity has warned.

Local authorities are unprepared to fight infections of the hepatitis C virus (pictured), The Hepatitis C Trust warned (Photo: SPL)
Local authorities are unprepared to fight infections of the hepatitis C virus (pictured), The Hepatitis C Trust warned (Photo: SPL)

There is a shortage of measures to promote testing in GP practices and local authorities are not ready to take responsibility for hepatitis C from April 2013, according to a report published by charity The Hepatitis C Trust.

Only a quarter of local authorities responding to a survey by the charity knew how many people in their area have the infection or are at risk. Almost half (46%) of NHS commissioners had no measures in place to encourage hepatitis testing in local GP practices.

The report, Opportunity knocks? An audit of hepatitis C services during the transition, said: ‘GPs are the first healthcare professionals that people tend to come into contact with, and are therefore in an important position to identify those who might be, or have been, at risk of hepatitis C infection and should be offered a test.’

The RCGP training module on detection, diagnosis and management of hepatitis B and C should be promoted more widely as part of ongoing GP education, the report said.

Charles Gore, chief executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: ‘Deaths from liver disease are increasing and within liver disease it is deaths from hepatitis C that are increasing the fastest. Failure to tackle hepatitis C will result in a significant increase in costs to the NHS and wider society.'

He added: ‘We could eradicate hepatitis C in the UK in a generation. What a tragedy to look back in 20 years and realise that we didn’t eradicate it when we had the opportunity.’

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