All patients who attend A&E at the Royal Sussex County Hospital will now be screened for Hepatitis C when having routine blood tests, unless they choose to opt out.
The screening, which includes all patients over 16 years old, is in addition to routine HIV testing, which was introduced at the hospital’s Emergency Department in April 2022.
It is a key part of the NHS drive to end new Hepatitis C infections ahead of global targets and has already been implemented in several other NHS Trusts.
Blood borne viruses (BBV) such as Hepatitis C and HIV are relatively common and can affect anyone. The earlier people find out whether they are infected, the better the chance of a long and healthy life, and no further onward transmission.
Duncan Cresswell is the Clinical Networks Manager for Hepatitis C and Vascular at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (UHSussex).
He said: “We are very pleased to add Hepatitis C to our blood borne virus screening for emergency care patients at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. Hepatitis C is now curable with a simple short course of tablets. Following treatment, people cannot pass the virus on. If left untreated, however, Hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage and cancer, so early diagnosis and treatment is incredibly important and now more valuable than ever.
“The County’s emergency department represents a fantastic opportunity to help find undiagnosed and untreated patients and provide them with the support they need to successfully complete treatment.”
Zoe Yates, Peer Programme Manager Sussex from The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “This will provide us with an important opportunity to help identify people who may be unknowingly living with Hepatitis C and fast track them into treatment. It will also provide us with a platform to re-engage patients who may know they have an active Hepatitis C virus, but who have been lost to follow up and not completed treatment.”
Patients can choose to opt out of being screened for HIV or Hepatitis C by speaking to the clinician in the Emergency Department. Patients will be contacted within two weeks if their test suggests they are living with HIV or Hepatitis C.
Lola Banjoko, Executive Managing Director for NHS Sussex said: “We are delighted to have this new way of screening patients for BBV in the Emergency Department at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
“We encourage everyone to be screened so they know their status. By increasing testing, we make sure more people can access life-saving treatment.”