St George’s helps to increase hepatitis C testing
St George’s viral hepatitis team is working in partnership with homeless charity, Spear, to progress the hepatitis C (HCV) elimination initiative, which aims to eradicate the virus by 2025.
Since the elimination initiative started in 2016, the team at St George’s has treated and cured around 1,000 people.
This month, our viral hepatitis team trained nine outreach workers from Spear on how to test people sleeping rough for hepatitis C antibodies, using oral swabs.
Those who test positive for hepatitis C antibodies will be supported by the Spear outreach workers to get a blood test, to see if they actually have the hepatitis C virus.
The blood test will be carried out at one of the St George’s community based HCV testing and treatment centres across Wandsworth in drug recovery services and community pharmacies which are part of the South Thames Hepatitis Network (STHepNet).
STHepNet is the South London operational delivery network (ODN) which is jointly led by St George’s and King’s College Hospital. The ODNs are the frameworks which have been set-up by NHSE across England to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025.
Dr Daniel Forton, Consultant Hepatologist at St George’s, said: “We hope to train more outreach workers in the future. Working with homeless organisations like Spear means that we can increase the possibility of eliminating hepatitis C.”
How to refer to the viral hepatitis team
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus known as a silent disease as there are generally no or minimal symptoms.
The hepatitis C virus is usually spread through blood-to-blood contact. In the UK, most hepatitis C infections happen in people who inject drugs or have injected them in the past.
Some ways the infection can be spread include:
•sharing unsterilised needles – particularly needles used to inject recreational drugs
•sharing razors or toothbrushes
•from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby
•through unprotected sex – although this is very rare.
We encourage all clinical staff to be aware of patients at high risk of hepatitis C and if you identify a patient in your care with the hepatitis C virus, please refer them to the viral hepatitis team on stgh-tr.HCVreferral@nhs.net or call 0208 725 0758/0187.
If you believe your team would benefit from a short educational session on hepatitis C awareness and high risk groups, please contact email the team.