Hepatitis: Screening

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that people who are in contact with drug treatment services are tested for hepatitis C.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, how many needle and syringe distribution points there are in England.

Photo of Jeff Smith Jeff Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of Government drugs policy in reducing the rate of new hepatitis C infections.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Local authorities are responsible for assessing local needs and commissioning drug prevention, treatment and harm reduction services to meet these needs. This includes making sure people in this high-risk population are screened for hepatitis C virus and identified for treatment when they access these services.

Public Health England (PHE) provides a range of drug and alcohol treatment data to local authorities which monitors national and local activity in drug treatment settings and can inform local commissioning of services. This includes the number of people in drug treatment who have been tested for hepatitis C.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have an Elimination Programme Partnership with the Pharmaceutical Industry and work closely with Gilead Sciences, who have hepatitis C Testing projects with the six largest groups of National Health Service and independent sector treatment providers in England covering approximately 95% of the available addiction services. Their plan is that ‘everybody tests, and everybody is tested’; all staff can carry out tests and they target 100% of their population. Those in contact with drug treatment services in secure and detained settings are engaged through reception in a programme of ‘opt out’ blood borne virus testing covering hepatitis B, hepatitis C and human immunodeficiency virus. Those already within the prison are targeted through a rolling programme of ‘whole population’ testing.

Local authorities are also responsible for commissioning needle and syringe programmes in their areas. The number of needle and syringe programmes in England is not recorded centrally.

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