Liver Diseases: Screening

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 15th March 2022.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will make it his policy to increase funding for liver disease scanning and testing in community diagnosis centres; what steps he is taking to reduce liver disease deaths; what assessment he has made of the reasons for the increase in those deaths; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

The Spending Review 2021 allocated £2.3 billion for diagnostics to increase the number of community diagnostic centres to at least 100 sites by March 2025. This will increase diagnostic capacity for tests, such as ultrasounds, blood tests and computed tomography scans, to diagnose liver disease and improve earlier diagnosis and health outcomes. There are no plans to increase funding for liver disease scanning or testing specifically.

The National Health Service is introducing an indicator to support the earlier detection of liver disease in those most at-risk cohorts by incentivising improved access to cirrhosis and fibrosis tests for alcohol dependent in-patients. The NHS Health Check invites adults aged 40 to 74 years old for an overall health check, which can provide early detection and identify potential risks of liver disease. Local authorities are responsible for assessing alcohol risk through the NHS Health Check and providing specialist treatment services for dependent drinkers. The NHS has invested £27 million to establish specialist alcohol care teams in hospitals with the highest rates of admissions related to alcohol dependence.

The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities has published Liver Disease Profiles, which showed the main increase in liver disease mortality was due to additional alcoholic liver disease deaths in 2020. Additional deaths from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and from hepatitis B related end-stage liver disease/hepatocellular carcinoma also showed a smaller increase. Deprivation is also identified as an influential factor on liver disease mortality, with those living in the most deprived areas being more adversely affected.

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