Specialist nurses at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust are helping eliminate hepatitis C as a major health threat by 2025 in support of a key NHS target.
The haematology team’s latest project was a ‘High Intensity Test and Treat’ event at Her Majesty’s Prison Lewes where nearly 96% of residents were screened for the contagious disease in three days.
Hepatitis C can spread through activities that expose people to an infected person’s blood, such as non-sterile tattooing, piercing or cutting rituals.
Nine prisoners at HMP Lewes were found to be carrying the virus and all were started on treatment. Testing also showed that 36 prisoners had previously been infected with hepatitis C.
The partnership project with the Hepatitis C Trust charity and Practice Plus Group has ensured testing of the Lewes prison population is 90% above the average for prisons in the South East.
Duncan Cresswell, Clinical Networks Manager for UHSussex, said: “This is a fantastic achievement by everyone involved and a testament to what can be achieved through collaborative working.
“The Hep C Trust and Practice Plus Group worked with prison guards to finger prick test residents and any antibody positive patients were screened for active infection (RNA) using a point-of-care testing machine.
“RNA positive patients were then seen by the UHSussex hepatology nursing team and started on treatment within two days, linking with our specialised pharmacy teams.”
UHSussex has been delivering hepatology services at the prison since 2011 and the trust has established successful pathways with the prison healthcare teams to get residents onto treatment.
Duncan added: “This has been the culmination of years of work developing relationships with the prison and helping to reduce healthcare inequalities for the residents. “
Zoe Yates, from the Hepatitis C Trust, said: “What a pleasure it was to be part of this testing event and to see how the can do attitude amongst the services involved ensured we achieved the best outcomes for the residents of HMP Lewes.”
Practice Plus Group regional blood borne virus nurse manager Arran Ludlow-Rhodes added: “We are delighted with the outcome of the testing at HMP Lewes. I would like to personally thank all staff involved in making this event the success it was.
“Hep C is curable, providing earlier interventions and management of the condition most importantly improves the quality of life for the patient.”