In a roundtable event hosted by Waverley Care and chaired by Miles Briggs MSP, experts and politicians came together to discuss the pressing issue of eliminating hepatitis C in Scotland.
Sponsored by Gilead Sciences, the event drew cross-party attendance from MSPs across the political spectrum, coinciding with the Scottish Government’s renewed commitment to eliminate hepatitis C by the end of the 2024/2025 financial year.
The roundtable meeting focused on recognising barriers to achieving this ambitious goal and identifying ways to overcome them. Scotland’s national treatment targets, with an aim of 2,500 treatment initiations each year for the next two years, was a key topic. Each health board has been assigned specific targets to work towards.
While the discussions highlighted progress and the practical implications of meeting these targets, they also shed light on the challenges that persist. The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with cuts to statutory services and reduced testing in places such as prisons, has left many people living with hepatitis C undiagnosed.
Accessing services and treatment for hepatitis C can be a significant and often enduring challenge for some due to complex life circumstances, including homelessness, addiction, migration and the restrictions related to the justice system. Specific examples, such as the difficulties in treating hepatitis C in prisons and the disparities in addiction and testing services across Scotland, were discussed.
Attendees also shared examples of successful initiatives, such as rapid testing in unconventional settings like food banks, peer support programmes, person-centred follow-up support and prison outreach efforts. These success stories highlighted the importance of targeted resource allocation, education and holistic approaches.
However, the ongoing cuts to and strain on statutory services remain a significant concern in the backdrop of these efforts. Achieving the Scottish Government’s ambitious goals will require a sustained commitment to addressing these challenges. As Scotland continues its journey towards eliminating hepatitis C by 2025, collaborative efforts like this roundtable are vital to drive progress.
We would like to use this opportunity to thank all who took part and attended, to Miles Briggs MSP for hosting and continuing to engage with us on this work, and to Gilead Sciences for sponsorship of the roundtable.
The full minutes from the roundtable event are available to download below.