Hepatitis: Prisons

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 31st March 2021.

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Photo of Lyn Brown Lyn Brown Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of funding the provision of hepatitis C diagnostic testing machines to prisons to (a) reduce the time between testing and treatment, (b) reduce the need for liver transplants, (c) make progress towards the elimination of hepatitis C and (d) related factors.

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

NHS England and NHS Improvement have offered testing machines extensively to trusts who lead the diagnosis and treatment pathways, including those in prisons. Some prisons have taken up the offer, while others already achieve excellent rates of testing with other methods.

Furthermore, the High Intensity Test and Treat (HITT) programme have been implemented in prisons. HITTs involve partner services working together to offer testing to every person in prison on a short period of time. Those who are found to be positive are fast-tracked onto treatment, with a deadline of less than two weeks. The aim of the HITTs is the test at least 95% of the prison population, leaving prisons in a good place to achieve micro-elimination of Hepatitis C. Whilst these projects were disrupted during lockdown periods, several HITTs were able to take place during 2020.

NHS England and NHS Improvement have commissioned prisoner peer support schemes, run by the Hepatitis C Trust. The peers provide information about Hepatitis C to those at risk and work to engage with each individual on their own terms and encouraging and support individuals in testing.

Progress is being made towards the elimination of hepatitis C. Over 57,000 people have benefitted from new drugs which cure hepatitis C being made available on the National Health Service over the last few years. Up to 95% of those with a reported response to the treatment have been cured. Furthermore, death registrations for hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease and cancer fell by 20% between 2015 and 2018, exceeding the 10% reduction by 2020 World Health Organization target. This is a direct result of the investment in hepatitis C diagnosis and treatment.

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