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Hepatology Services

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to identify and treat individuals who are Hepatitis C positive. [112524]

Our consultation paper, "Hepatitis C Strategy for England", proposes that patients at increased risk of infection or with otherwise unexplained liver disease should be offered testing for hepatitis C. The strategy also recognises the need to strengthen services for assessing and treating patients with hepatitis C, in accordance with guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.We shall be publishing an action plan in the next few months to take forward implementation of the strategy.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what priority is given to hepatology services under the NHS Plan. [112525]

The NHS Plan sets out a framework for the provision of comprehensive and high quality services to tackle a wide range of conditions and diseases, including liver disease, backed up by a sustained programme of investment and reform.In line with Shifting the Balance of Power, it is for primary care trusts (PCTs) to determine the local priority given to hepatology services according to local needs. We have published a national specialised services definitions set for hepatology services to assist PCT commissioners. Our consultation paper, 'Hepatitis C Strategy for England', proposes the development of managed clinical networks to assess and treat patients with hepatitis C, in accordance with guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. We will publish an action plan to take forward implementation of the strategy in the next few months.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what targets he has to (a) increase awareness of liver disease and (b) reduce the impact of liver disease. [112526]

Our consultation paper, 'Hepatitis C Strategy for England', proposes increasing professional and public awareness of hepatitis C to underpin improvements in services for its prevention, diagnosis and treatment. The strategy suggests national outcome indicators that will be used to track progress, along with enhanced epidemiological surveillance.In the next few months, we will be publishing an action plan on blood-borne viruses, as proposed in the Chief Medical Officer's infectious disease strategy, 'Getting Ahead of the Curve', to take forward implementation of the hepatitis C strategy and to identify action needed to strengthen measures to prevent and control hepatitis B.Alcohol misuse is linked to cirrhosis of the liver. The Government are committed to tackling the harm caused by alcohol misuse, and will be implementing the national alcohol harm reduction strategy by 2004.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of regional disparities in the delivery of hepatology services. [112527]

We have not made such an assessment. However, we are aware that the University of Southampton has recently carried out a survey of the organisation and delivery of services for hepatitis C on behalf of the British Association for the Study of the Liver, the British Society for Gastroenterology (Liver Section) and the British Liver Trust. We understand that the results of the study will be published in due course.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate he has made of the relative costs of a health policy of (a) applying treatment to hepatitis C positive cohorts as they present to health services and (b) applying treatment to the hepatitis C positive population actively identified by mass screening. [112528]

We have not made such an assessment. Our consultation paper, 'Hepatitis C Strategy for England', recognises the need to improve diagnosis of hepatitis C in those at risk of infection so that they are referred for specialist assessment and treatment in accordance with guidance from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.Mass population screening for hepatitis C is not justified because of the relatively low prevalence of infection in this country, which is concentrated in groups at increased risk of infection, such as injecting drug users. Targeted screening of individuals at increased risk of infection is in line with international consensus statements from the World Health Organisation and the European Association for the Study of the Liver.We will be publishing an action plan to underpin implementation of the strategy in the next few months.