Mayor visits hepatitis C outreach van for World Hepatitis Da

26 July 2019 - Today, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, joined clinicians and charities to spread the World Hepatitis Day 'Get tested for hepatitis C' message

Hep C visit

Today (26 July), the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has joined forces with the London Joint Working Group on Hepatitis C, King’s College Hospital, The Hepatitis C Trust, and the Manna Centre, to draw attention to World Hepatitis Day (28 July) and the good news that hepatitis C – once seen as a ‘silent killer’ – can now be cured with tablet treatments.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus, which primarily affects the liver. People can live with hepatitis C for decades without symptoms but untreated cases can cause fatal cirrhosis and liver cancer. Public Health England estimate there are 14,200 people living with hepatitis C in London and 113,000 people with the virus in England, around half of whom are undiagnosed. NHS England has set an ambition to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat in England by 2025, ahead of the World Health Organisation global goal of 2030.

As hepatitis C is transmitted blood to blood, risk factors include sharing injecting equipment, having a tattoo or piercing in an unregistered premises, having a blood transfusion or blood products before 1991 when screening for hepatitis C was introduced, or having medical procedures in a high prevalence country or region (e.g. Egypt, eastern Europe and south Asia).

Sadiq chose to visit the hepatitis C outreach testing van, run by King’s College Hospital and The Hepatitis C Trust, as well as the Manna Centre in London Bridge, as hepatitis C is highly prevalent amongst homeless people. This group of people face additional barriers to getting tested and treated due to a lack of permanent address and difficulty accessing secondary care services.

Sadiq said: “If left untreated, the hepatitis C virus can be extremely damaging but, once diagnosed, it can be managed quickly and effectively, enabling patients to make a full recovery.

“This is why I’m urging all Londoners in high-risk groups or those who might be experiencing symptoms of hepatitis C to get tested.

“Every Londoner deserves access to quality healthcare and this testing van offers a way to reach some of our most vulnerable communities. Working in partnership across the capital we want to ensure nobody is left behind and to strive together to eliminate hepatitis C in London.”

Professor Geoff Dusheiko, consultant hepatologist at King’s, said: “Together with the Hepatitis C Trust and the sponsors of the programme, we are pleased to be offering localised, on-site testing and treatment to homeless people in London. Rates of liver disease due to hepatitis C are declining with the advent of new effective oral treatments but it is of vital importance that the homeless, who have a high prevalence of hepatitis C, do not fall through the net, and can be helped to navigate a path to cure.”

Angelina Bass, who volunteers with The Hepatitis C Trust to talk about her experiences of having and being treated for hepatitis C, said: “I was diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2005. I lived with the virus for over 12 years so know just how devastating hepatitis C is both mentally and physically. I was finally offered treatment in 2016 when I was given a three-month course of medication. In 2017 I was told I was hepatitis C negative which was such a relief. It felt amazing.

"I started volunteering for The Hepatitis C Trust in 2017 because I felt like I'd been given a second chance and I wanted to give back. My role involves accompanying clients to hospital and giving support around hepatitis C and treatment. I also go to hostels and detox centres to share my own experience of addiction, homelessness, hepatitis C and everything that comes with it. I feel proud to be involved in such a brilliant cause, and hopefully one day we can eliminate hepatitis C."

Dr Emily Finch, co-chair of the London Joint Working Group on Substance Use and Hepatitis C and Clinical Director, Southwark Central Acute and Addictions Directorate said: “We are delighted that the Mayor is helping to raise awareness of hepatitis C which is very much a disease of deprivation. Hepatitis C can be devastating but we now have the tools to find and treat everyone infected. It is great that the Mayor is helping to get the important ‘get tested’ message out there.”

Rachel Halford, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “With highly effective treatments available through the NHS there is no reason for anyone to be living with hepatitis C. We need to urgently find those still living with an undiagnosed infection and support them to access treatment. We are determined that we will leave no-one behind. Initiatives like our testing van will help to reach these people.”

Alison Keating, Head of Alcohol, Drugs and Tobacco Team, Public Health England London said: “Hepatitis C remains an ongoing public health problem in London with significant numbers of people with the disease in our city. Transmission amongst vulnerable groups such as the homeless continues and many people remain undiagnosed and untreated, but this need not be the case. The landscape of hepatitis C treatment has changed rapidly and we’re now in an era of vastly improved treatment which could lead to its elimination. This is a very exciting prospect for London to have a future without hepatitis C.”

Bandi Mbubi, Director of the Manna Centre said: “We thank the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for visiting our day centre and for drawing attention to an illness which overwhelmingly affects homeless people.”


For further information please contact:
Molly Downing
Communications Officer
molly.downing@nhs.net
Extension: +44 (0)20 3299 3257

Notes to editors

1. King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the UK’s largest and busiest teaching hospitals, training over 900 dentists, 750 doctors and 300 nurses every year. The Trust is recognized internationally for its work in liver disease and transplantation, neurosciences, cardiac, haemato-oncology, stroke and major trauma. On 1 October 2013, King’s took over the running of the Princess Royal University Hospital in Bromley and Orpington Hospital, as well as some services at Beckenham Beacon and Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup. The new enlarged organisation has over 10,500 staff and provides over 1 million patient contacts a year. 9,000 babies are delivered by our hospitals each year, and over 750 patients come to our Emergency Departments every day. For more information, please visit the website. You can also support the work of King’s College Hospital at www.togetherwecan.org.uk

2. King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering collaboration between King’s College London, and Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts.

King’s Health Partners is one of only six Department of Health-designated AHSCs in England and brings together an unrivalled range and depth of clinical and research expertise, spanning both physical and mental health. Our combined strengths will drive improvements in care for patients, allowing them to benefit from breakthroughs in medical science and receive leading edge treatment at the earliest possible opportunity.

Our partnership brings together...

  • three of the UK’s leading NHS Foundation Trusts;
  • one of the top 30 universities in the world;
  • services provided over 225 locations, including seven hospitals and community and mental health centres;
  • 2.2 million patient contacts each year;
  • 31,000 staff;
  • 25,000 students;
  • a combined annual turnover of £2.8bn.

... to advance health and wellbeing by integrating world-class research, care and teaching.

3. At King’s College Hospital we fundraise for the best in treatment, research and health education, leading-edge equipment and improving well-being in our communities. By uniting doctors, nurses, researchers and academics with our supporters and volunteers we can provide the best patient care that goes above and beyond. Find out more and support us at togetherwecan.org.uk