Scottish Government
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Funding to tackle Hepatitis C

More than £43 million pounds is to be dedicated over the next three years to tackle Hepatitis C.

Launching Phase 2 of the Hepatitis C Action Plan Public Health Ministser Shona Robison said the funding would have a significant impact for those living with Hepatitis C and those at risk of becoming infected.

The cash, the majority of which will be provided to NHS health boards, supports Phase 2 of the action plan which sets out 34 separate actions and measures to:

* Improve treatment, testing, diagnostic services and care for those who have Hepatitis C or may be at risk
* Improve support services for those living with the virus with an emphasis on increasing the numbers of those infected receiving treatment
* Raise awareness through education and prevention work to reduce the transmission of the disease, particularly amongst injecting drug users
* Recognise the social care needs and drug addiction problems of infected people and aim to improve links between clinical, addiction and mental health services
* Monitor the scale of the problem and measure the success of reducing the spread of Hepatitis C

Speaking on World Hepatitis Day Ms Robison said:

"I am delighted to launch Phase 2 of the Hepatitis C Action Plan, our roadmap for tackling the infection over the next three years. Hepatitis C is a significant public health challenge for Scotland as we have almost 50,000 people living with the infection and 38,000 of them are chronic carriers.

"There is still a lot of ignorance about Hepatitis C and part of our plan will be to work to raise awareness amongst professionals, the public and those at risk of infection.

"Although the disease is commonly associated with injecting drug users a significant number of those affected have moved on from chaotic lifestyles and reintegrated into society as productive members of the community. However living with the infection can be debilitating and destabilising and that is why the Scottish Government is committed to making sure that people get the best support and treatment to continue their recovery.

"There are also a small number of people who have been infected with the virus through infected blood products or other medical interventions and again it is vital that they receive the most appropriate care to ensure that they can manage their condition.

"We are also committed to reducing the number of people becoming infected with Hepatitis C through education and awareness campaigns and initiatives designed to reduce needle sharing. The Action Plan has been drawn up in conjunction with services providers and users to ensure that we continue to take the right approach to tackling this chronic condition.

"The financial support attached to the action plan will go a long way towards ensuring that those living with Hepatitis C can have a better quality of life and will raise the profile of the condition with the wider public."

Phase 1 of the Hepatitis C Action Plan was launched in September 2006 and was supported by around £4 million pounds over two years provided to NHS Boards.

Of the 40+ actions included, all but one was completed.

A significant element of the Phase 1 Action Plan was to gather evidence to generate actions for stage 2. This evidence was shared with working groups and members of the public at a stakeholder event, following which actions were revised before being submitted to Ministers for approval in March 2008.

Of £43.2 million made available for the Plan over the three years, £5.6 million (13 per cent), £16.3m (38 per cent), and £21.3 million (49 per cent), respectively, is being allocated for the first, second and third years. A total of £36.7 million (85 per cent) of the £43.2 million, will be distributed among the 14 NHS Boards for the development of Prevention (£8 million) and Testing/Treatment/Care and Support (£28.7 million) services. In recognition of the importance of social support for people infected with, and affected by, Hepatitis C, approximately £3 million of this latter allocation is being dedicated to agencies, including Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), providing such services.

To 2006 an estimated 38,000 people were chronically infected with Hepatitis C. Of those only 14,500 (38 per cent) had been diagnosed, only 8,000 (20 per cent) had ever attended specialist clinical services for chronic Hepatitis C and around 2,000 (5 per cent) had received antiviral therapy

As at December 2006, HPS estimated that around 2,100 Hepatitis C infected people were living with cirrhosis and that an estimate 1,000-1,500 injecting drug users (IDUs) were becoming infected annually.

Annual numbers of Hepatitis C-related liver deaths doubled from 49 in 1999 to 95 in 2005.

It is estimated that if 2,000 people a year received antiviral therapy over the next two decades, 5200 cases of Hepatitis C related cirrhosis, including 2,700 with liver failure, would be prevented. Antiviral therapy for all infected individuals, excluding those who have progressed to very severe liver disease, has been deemed highly cost-effective by NICE and NHS QIS.

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