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Hepatitis C

Volume 607: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2016

The UK Government take the issue of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis very seriously. I can confirm that Public Health England and NHS England, together with key stakeholders, are continuing to develop a strategic approach to tackling hepatitis C, including plans which have now been published for treatment through operational delivery networks.

So far as I am aware, the Scottish Government provide treatment for all those with sensitive hepatitis C, including those infected with contaminated blood, and that transforms the lives of patients and reduces the risk of further infection in the population. Will the Minister commit to providing similar access to treatment in England?

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has provided guidance on the new drug, so the hon. Gentleman is right to highlight how effective the new treatments are compared with what was previously available. The NHS is in the process of rolling out its response. It has already treated a number of people, and there is a commitment to treat 10,000 people with those treatments in 2016-17. We are of course looking more widely at how we can tackle these issues, not least in the context of the tragedy of those infected with contaminated blood, which he has highlighted.

What discussions has the Minister had with her counterpart in Northern Ireland regarding the reduction and eventual eradication of hepatitis C? Does she agree that it is important to have a strategy that encompasses the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Absolutely. The consideration of all aspects of how we eliminate hepatitis C over time is important, but we should not underestimate what a difficult job that is, largely because an awful lot of people are not aware that they have it—they are asymptomatic and therefore much of the burden of the disease is not visible to us. However, there is always more we can do, and we continue to make this issue a priority.