Major milestone reached in hepatitis C treatment – Humankind

Major milestone reached in hepatitis C treatment

Jack Keery

A person receiving a finger prick test from a health professional to check for hepatitis C

A ground-breaking new approach to tackling hepatitis C in North Yorkshire and Humber has reached a major milestone, with the first patients beginning their treatment journey.

A partnership between Change Grow Live, Humankind, NHS England, the Hepatitis C Trust and Spectrum Community Health CIC has led people to receive quicker treatment for hepatitis C. This is because they are receiving treatment directly from staff employed at the substance use treatment service. This treatment pathway is the first of its kind in England and it means the NHS Hepatology team do not need to attend the service or see the patient before they begin treatment.

Traditionally, substance use services have tested and identified people with hepatitis C, before referring them to their relevant NHS Operational Delivery Network for treatment. That treatment may have been given in-house at substance use support services, but an NHS or Hepatitis C Trust clinical team member was required to carry it out.

Now, providers will be working in partnership with each other, NHS England and the Hepatitis C Trust to allow provider staff to deliver treatment directly to people as part of their ongoing package of care.

The first patients begin their treatment

In May 2021, the first person to benefit from this new multi-provider service began their treatment for hepatitis C through Humankind’s North Yorkshire Horizons service. Since then, a number of people are preparing to start their own treatment with Change Grow Live and our partner Changing Lives (York).

Speaking about their experience, one of the people on the new pathway with North Yorkshire Horizons said:

“I’m glad to have found out I have hep C as it means it can be treated. I’m managing the medication well and have no side effects.”

Lee Wilson, Regional Director for Humankind, said:

“We are delighted to be part of this innovative new approach which will help people receive treatment more quickly and within surroundings that they are comfortable in. This project is a great example of what can be achieved when the substance use recovery sector works together and we’re very grateful to Change Grow Live, NHS England, the Hepatitis C Trust and Spectrum Community Health for partnering with us to support the people who use our services in this way.”

Rachel Hudson, Change Grow Live’s hepatitis C Lead Nurse for the region, said:

“It’s been very exciting to work within this new model, working with other drug and alcohol treatment providers in ways that we have never worked before. By sharing best practice and being innovative we can engage with people who have never accessed hepatitis C treatment and continue to work towards eliminating hepatitis C.

It has been such an achievement to see the first hepatitis C treatment start within a drug treatment service and we hope that we will continue to build on this new way of working to ease access to treatment and see a greater number of people being cured of hepatitis C.”

Hepatitis can disproportionately affect people receiving support from drug treatment services, and people often face barriers to accessing testing and treatment. By bringing providers together to share their knowledge, resources and expertise, the new model is challenging those barriers and encouraging more people than ever to engage with treatment.

Dawn Orange, Hepatology Clinical Nurse at York Hospital, said:

“The provision of treatment within addiction services has re-established links with a marginalised and underrepresented population within our area. It ensures all patients are provided with equal access to treatment should they wish to receive it.

We have shown that multiple providers can work together to overcome obstacles when there is a shared focus, which is our patients. We are delighted that this referral pathway is now established, and we are successfully treating patients who may otherwise have missed out on the opportunity for curative treatment. We will continue to work together to encourage the goal of elimination!”

With the first patients through its doors and engaging in treatment, this bold new approach is already proving that it can change lives for the better. In the near future, we hope to expand the scope of this new model by welcoming other drug treatment service providers from the region. We also hope that this new model will provide a roadmap for making hepatitis C treatment more open and accessible to everyone who needs it.