A new NHS England programme is set to find and cure hidden cases of Hepatitis C with the aim of eradicating the disease from England by 2030.

An estimated 80,000 people are unknowingly living with the disease and the screening programme, which starts next month, is designed to find these cases.

The result is that potentially thousands more people will be getting life-saving treatment earlier as it specifically seeks out medical records that show an individual has one or more key Hepatitis C risk factors such as historic blood transfusions or those living with HIV.

The pilot programme, which runs until Spring 2023 will use Patient Search Identification (PSI) software that has been developed for free by pharmaceutical firm MSD as part of a deal struck in 2019.

Professor Graham Foster, national clinical chair for the NHS England’s Hepatitis C Elimination Programmes, said: “This pilot marks a significant step forward in our fight to eliminate chronic Hepatitis C in England by 2030 by enabling the NHS to use new software to identify and test patients most at risk from the virus – potentially saving thousands of lives.

“Hepatitis C can be a fatal disease which affects tens of thousands across the country but with unlimited access to NHS treatments, innovative patient finding initiatives such as this one, we will continue to boost the life chances of thousands of patients by catching the virus even earlier.”

Rachel Halford, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, said: “Thanks to the brilliant advances we have seen in Hepatitis C treatment in recent years, we have a real opportunity to eliminate the virus as a public health concern in the next few years. However, in order to do so, we need to make progress in finding those living with an undiagnosed infection and refer them into treatment.

“That is why the announcement of this new screening programme is such welcome news. Primary care is where we are most likely to find those who have been living with an undiagnosed infection for many years.”

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