Roundtable focuses on Hep C elimination

Action to tackle Hepatitis C in Scotland was on the agenda as we chaired a meeting  of health experts, MSPs and charities in Edinburgh this week.

The event looked at the Scottish Government’s goal to eliminate Hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2030, and called for action to make this vision a reality.

During the event, a number of innovative projects were highlighted, including our Prison Link pilot at HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow, funded by AbbVie. The project works with prisoners who are living with Hepatitis C to help them plan for release.

When we spoke to service users who spent time in prison, they told us how their release made managing Hepatitis C more difficult. Faced with a lack of practical support around issues like accommodation and financial support many said they had stopped accessing healthcare services.

Through the project, we support prisoners to develop liberation plans, making sure the right support is in place to re-enter the community, allowing them to focus on accessing treatment, clearing Hepatitis C and moving forward with their lives.

An estimated one in five prisoners in Scotland is thought to be living with Hepatitis C. The population has been identified as a priority for Hepatitis C testing by the Scottish Government, and our service will help to add to the support available. The ambition is to build on the pilot to deliver similar services in prisons across the country.

Alongside highlighting innovative work, the event was also a chance to talk about some of the challenges we face. There were some excellent contributions on issues like the cost of treatments, delivering more services in the community, funding for  drug and alcohol services, and the need to address the specific needs of women living with Hepatitis C. A summary of these discussions will soon be handed over to a group of Parliamentary Champions at Holyrood who are conducting an informal inquiry with the Hepatitis C Trust.

Scotland has long been at the forefront of international best practice when it comes to addressing Hepatitis C. The Holyrood inquiry will hopefully contribute to a clear blueprint for how we can take this forward, building on successes and addressing the barriers that stand in the way of making the elimination of the virus achievable.

Our thanks to AbbVie for organising the event, to our co-chair for the evening, Ivan McKee MSP, and to all of the speakers and guests who attended.