Celebrating World Hepatitis Day in Leeds
24 July 2020
Landmarks across the county are lighting up in purple, to raise awareness of Hepatitis C on 28 July.
Plans are in place for local landmarks including the Leeds Arena, Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Civic Hall and Leeds City Museum to be lit up to mark the day, along with hospitals including St James’s Hospital Chapel, Leeds General Infirmary Brotherton Wing and Bradford Teaching Hospitals entrance. In Millennium Square a campaign video by drug and alcohol charity Forward Leeds will also be playing all day.
Patients with Hepatitis C in West Yorkshire are treated by specialist teams who are part of the West Yorkshire Hepatitis C Virus Operational Delivery Network. Weekly prison in-reach treatment is also provided by Viral Hepatitis Clinical Nurse Specialists to each of the four prisons in the area.
The specialised network manages services, provides referral pathways and treatment to patients with the Hepatitis C virus using Direct Acting Antiviral medication. It is hosted by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and also includes Bradford Teaching Hospitals, Airedale NHS Foundation Trust and Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the teams working across the network have had to adapt the care they provide, including visiting patients at home, arranging telephone appointments and supporting homeless patients in Leeds.
Teams from Bevan Healthcare, Leeds Teaching Hospitals and The Hepatitis C Trust have worked in collaboration to test groups of vulnerable and homeless individuals who are currently housed in temporary accommodation around the city due to the coronavirus pandemic. On testing days around 20 to 30 people met with the team to be tested and some individuals have already started hepatitis C treatment to cure them of the virus.
Tracey Stirrup Clinical Nurse Specialist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a unique set of circumstances which enabled the Leeds Viral Hepatitis team to take their outreach service directly to vulnerable and homeless people in Leeds. During the pandemic this group have been housed in temporary accommodation meaning that the team could find patients who previously had not engaged with testing or treatment for Hepatitis C. This has only been possible through multi-agency collaboration between LTHT, The Hepatitis C Trust and the Bevan HealthCare Street outreach team.”
It is estimated that 143,000 people in the UK are living with hepatitis C, a blood-borne virus which can cause serious and even fatal damage to the liver if left untreated, among other health impacts. Despite this, around two-thirds of those with hepatitis C are living with an undiagnosed infection. The most common route of transmission is through sharing equipment for injecting drugs. Other risk factors include receiving medical and dental care in countries with poor sterilisation practices, tattooing in unlicensed premises, sexual activity involving blood-to-blood contact, and having received a blood transfusion or blood products through the NHS prior to 1991.
Referral for testing is available through GPs, and support and guidance is available from The Hepatitis C Trust via a helpline staffed by people with direct experience of hepatitis C. Since 2015, treatments with short durations, limited side-effects and cure rates upwards of 95% have been widely available. The UK is committed to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2030 at the latest.