New Pathway for the Treatment of Patients with Hepatitis C
The Health Protection Agency estimates that there are 250,000
people with Hepatitis C in the UK, while some estimates put the
prevalence as high as 466,000. Most people go undiagnosed and less
than half receive treatment.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can cause inflammation,
swelling and scarring of the liver tissue, and often leads to
significant liver damage. Greater Manchester has the highest levels
of hepatitis C in England, with estimates reaching around 16,000
cases, due largely to its high prevalence among the sizeable local
injecting drug using population. Without a doubt, hepatitis C is an
escalating public health issue that will cost the NHS up to
£8billion over the next 30 years unless testing and treatment is
The Greater Manchester Hepatitis C Strategy, in partnership with
NHS Greater Manchester, has developed a new clinical care pathway
for the treatment of people with suspected hepatitis C. The new
pathway puts patient care at the heart and will streamline and
shorten the various processes a patient needs to go through.
At present, General Practitioners carry out a basic test on
patients to see if they have hepatitis C antibodies in their
system. About 20-30 per cent of people clear the virus from their
bodies and so the problem with this test is that it does not show
if the virus is still present. This means the patient is then
referred to secondary care i.e. hospital, for further tests.
What the new pathway promotes is for GPs to do a PCR test
(polymerase chain reaction) which detects whether or not the
hepatitis C virus is still in the patient's system. This cuts out
the need for patients to be referred to secondary care, wait to see
a Consultant and then wait for testing and results. Patients who
show as positive in both tests will then be referred directly to
the nearest or preferred treatment centre instead of being referred
to a local gastroenterologist first. In Greater Manchester there
are four treatment centres including North Manchester General
Hospital (Lead Consultant, Dr Vilar), Manchester Royal Infirmary
(Lead Consultant, Dr Prince), Royal Albert Edward Infirmary (Lead
Consultant, Dr Banait), and Wythenshawe Hospital (Lead Consultant,
Overall, the new pathway minimizes waiting time for patients.
Siobhan Fahey, Programme Manager for the Greater Manchester
Hepatitis C Strategy says: "The new pathway is designed to cut out
additional steps that the patient currently has to take in finding
out whether or not they have hepatitis C and getting it treated.
The changes will provide savings to the NHS which at this point in
time is a real necessity.
"The pathway will certainly help patients as they will be tested
more promptly, receive the results much more quickly and this in
turn will reduce the anxiety and worry that they will no doubt be
feeling. We are in the process of meeting GPs across Greater
Manchester, providing training on the new pathway and providing
For more information, advice and guidance please visit www.greatermanchesterhepc.com.
- Ends -
Notes to editors
Laura Parker, Communications Manager for the Greater Manchester
Hepatitis C Strategy, t: 07812 087 047.
About Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that infects the cells of the
It can cause inflammation
(swelling) and fibrosis (scarring) of the liver tissue, and
sometimes significant liver damage. It ranges in severity from a
mild illness lasting a few weeks to a serious, lifelong illness
that attacks the liver.
Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with the
Hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone who is not infected.
Those at risk are:
- Those who currently or have previously shared needles,
syringes, straws or other equipment to inject or snort drugs
- If you were in receipt of a blood transfusion or transplant
- If you were in receipt of blood products before 1987
- People born oversees may have been exposed to re-used needles
or given contaminated blood. HCV rates in Pakistan for example is
3%. In Greater Manchester there are around 29,000 people living
here who were born in Pakistan which means around 1,115 could be
- Patients who have received health care abroad in countries
where medical equipment may be inadequately sterilised are at
increased risk. This particularly applies to people born in
developing countries, who may have been exposed to increased risk
- People who have had acupuncture, tattoos or body piercing -
this can be due to either improperly sterilized equipment or
contamination of any dyes being used
- Needlestick injuries in health care settings
- Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with
another person's blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
- Having sexual contact with a person infected with the Hepatitis
- Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C.
About the Greater Manchester Hepatitis
The Greater Manchester Hepatitis C Strategy (GMHCVS) was formed
in response to the national Hepatitis C Strategy in 2004 and
increasing local recognition of a need to improve local services in
Greater Manchester. Hepatitis C is a serious public health issue
for the North West and Greater Manchester in particular has
consistently had the highest rates of infection in injecting drug
users in the country. Hepatitis C is regarded by the North West
Strategic Health Authority as one of the top five health issues for
the region and has been identified by NHS Greater Manchester as one
of the top twenty health priorities.