Quicker Testing Introduced For Hepatitis C

A one-year pilot has been launched in NHS Forth Valley in a bid to diagnose and treat Hepatitis C much more speedily.

The initiative, aimed at harder-to-reach groups, will bring finger-prick results within an hour or so rather than waiting days or weeks for diagnosis and treatment. The pilot is unique in Scotland and is the first joint collaboration with pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, who have helped with funding.

The new finger-prick test should provide results within an hour or so.

In the past, due to laboratories being extremely busy, dried blood spot results could take up to six to eight weeks which can impact on client engagement with local services. There are still around 600 people in the Forth Valley area who may have Hepatitis C. To try to encourage them to come forward for testing, peer support workers have been visiting a number of local premises, including the Salvation Army and local recovery cafes as well as speaking to homeless people. Clinicians say Covid-19 has impacted hugely on this client group and sharing of injection equipment has become common practice again in certain circles.

Carol Crawford, NHS Forth Valley’s Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Managed Care Network (MCN) Manager said: “The Managed Care Network is delighted to have the opportunity to host this pilot initiative in NHS Forth Valley. We have developed a very successful network with partner agencies who are all excited and very enthusiastic to participate in the Hepatitis-C Elimination Strategy. These include the Hepatitis-C Trust, Gilead Sciences, Change Grow Live and Transform Forth Valley to name just a few.

“Peer support for positive client engagement is crucial as they offer advocacy, befriending and support whenever necessary. Successful joint working should enable Forth Valley to achieve Hep-C Elimination by 2024 in line with Scottish Government targets.”

This pilot initiative will test, diagnose and provide the medication all within two days, sometimes on the same day and it has taken a lot of negotiation with the many groups, partners and individuals involved. Harm reduction advice and supply of clean equipment is also crucial to prevent reinfection and will be included as part of the testing consultation.

Speedier Hepatitis C testing will initially take place at Change Grow Live, the national health and social care charity, in Stirling and will eventually be rolled out to other areas across Forth Valley to improve access for those at higher risk of contracting Hepatitis C.