New Bradford scheme could save hundreds from ‘silent killer’
A new community scheme which could help save the lives of hundreds of people across the city is being rolled out thanks to the support of Bradford doctors.
Liver experts from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust have joined forces with national charity The Hepatitis C Trust to train the first lay person in the country to offer testing for hepatitis B and hepatitis C in the community.
Consultant hepatologist, Sulleman Moreea, said: “It’s vital the Trust can go into the community to test people. We currently have only 1,200 patients on our books at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, yet we know that as many as two to three thousand more people in Bradford have hep B or C.
“These people don’t know they have hepatitis because symptoms often don’t appear for years. If we can catch the condition early then we can give treatment now, before the situation deteriorates to the point that the patient is presenting with cirrhosis or liver cancer.”
Shabana Begum, from Huddersfield, was herself successfully treated for hepatitis that she contracted through medical treatment in Pakistan in the 1970s. She has now been trained by staff at the BRI to conduct testing, and plans to start working, on behalf of the BRI and the Hep C Trust, in Bradford’s mosques in the coming months. If successful, she will then expand her work to include community centres, events and meetings.
If Shabana’s community work is successful, Bradford doctors hope that similar schemes will be replicated across the country, especially in areas with large South Asian populations as the viruses are common in countries like Pakistan. There is currently no national programme to test for the virus in the populations at risk.
Shabana added: “Research has highlighted that the viruses are very prevalent in the South Asian community and this isn’t changing because there’s a lack of knowledge and because people don’t talk openly about the issue. Stigma is still widespread and I hope my work can help dismiss some of the myths as well as diagnosing people so they can get treatment before it’s too late.”
“Shabana’s work is all the more important because while mortality from other illnesses is falling, the number of patients dying from liver disease is rising nationally. The identification of patients with hep B & C is crucial to reversing this trend; there is no doubt that early testing and treatment could save hundreds of lives in Bradford” added Dr Moreea.
The scheme will target Bradford’s Eastern European and South Asian communities where the virus is most prevalent. The test for hepatitis B and C is a simple finger-prick blood test which identifies whether the person has either virus or not.
The Hospital’s co-operation and support has been welcomed by The Hepatitis C Trust Chief Executive and founder, Charles Gore.
He commented: “This is exactly the sort of initiative we are so keen
to see. Hepatitis C is a solvable problem in the UK – and how many
problems can you truly say that about? – if only we can just get out
there and identify and treat those infected.”