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MSD’s HCV report calls for key elimination boosts

The advice includes a national rollout of the HCV GP champion programme and further testing

MSD has released a new report, Driving Elimination through HCV Case Finding in Primary Care, that highlights the urgent need for improved case finding among GP practices in order to deliver NHS England’s bold hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination strategy.

Within the document, experts stress the need for policy measures that will enhance HCV case finding and testing in GP practices.

Advice includes a national rollout of the HCV GP champion programme and further widespread testing to collect more UK data on how common HCV is in the community. Furthermore, the experts also want rapid measures to overcome the variety of challenges presented by HCV.

The roundtable meeting and report, developed by MSD, known as Merck & Co outside the US and Canada, signified the value that innovative software technologies provide in terms of the wider elimination agenda. This includes the patient search identification (PSI) tool, a vital facility that enables GP practices to identify potential patients in their practice, while also referring them to secondary care for testing and, ultimately, treatment.

This pivotal tool allows searches for coded HCV risk factors in patients electronic health records and identifies those at risk of the infection.

Dr Grace Bottoni, clinical lead for South East London Clinical Effectiveness Group, NHS South East London Clinical Commissioning Group, underlined the importance of HCV elimination: “Without working together with primary care, I don’t think we can achieve full hepatitis C elimination in England.”

She added: “As a GP myself, I know how stretched my colleagues are at this time. Therefore, it is crucial that we support GPs as much as possible, including practical tools to help identify patients who could be at risk of hepatitis.”

Rachel Halford, chief executive officer at The Hepatitis C Trust, concluded: “The NHS hepatitis C elimination programme has achieved extraordinary success and continues to make a positive impact in the lives of so many people. However, to truly reach elimination, we must focus on identifying and treating all cases hidden within the primary care system.

“As the programme enters its fifth year, it is essential that we use all available resources to empower GPs to ensure that we eliminate hepatitis C in England by 2025.”

In 2019, NHS England entered into a collaboration with industry partners as part of a national programme to eliminate hepatitis C across England by 2025. This target is five years ahead of the World Health Organization’s aim of elimination by 2030.

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