Hepatitis C rates fall by 45 per cent in England
The number of people living with Hepatitis C in England has fallen by 45 per cent since 2015, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has said.
The latest UKHSA data shows that in 2022 there were an estimated 70,649 people living with the virus, citing improved access to antivirals as the key factor in bringing its prevalence down.
Over 80,000 people have been treated through NHS England’s national elimination programme since 2015 “meaning more people have now been treated and cured of the virus than are left to treat,” said the UKHSA.
More than four-fifths of those who have been treated are from the most deprived parts of the country, it added – but it warned that a “small but not insignificant number” of treated individuals become re-infected, highlighting the need to maintain prevention services. UKHSA
Work is ongoing with regional operation delivery networks to use data to access people still living with hepatitis C so they can be treated.
The UKHSA’s Dr Sema Mandal said that while treatment has improved “dramatically” there is still a need “to identify people with the infection early to keep on track with elimination by 2030,” stressing that many remain undiagnosed – “often because they have no symptoms or are unaware that they have ever been at risk”.
From September 2020 to March of this year a number of community pharmacies offered hepatitis C antibody testing service as an Advanced Service. There were a total 1,059 claims from pharmacies for issuing antibody tests by the time the service was withdrawn in March.
NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said: “Finding and treating more than 80,000 people as part of our hepatitis C elimination programme is a huge achievement and I’m delighted that we remain on track to eliminate the virus as a public health concern by 2030.
“Earlier this year we launched a new service on the NHS website to enable people to confidentially order at-home testing kit, and so far over 4,500 people have used this kit to get tested.”
Health minister Will Quince said: “The data speaks for itself. We are making huge headway in eliminating hepatitis C, with England on track to be one of the first countries in the world to do so.
“Deaths and prevalence of the virus have fallen consistently thanks to improvements in diagnosis and access to treatments.”