PATIENTS in England at risk from hepatitis C will now be able to order self-testing kits.
NHS England is rolling out the free tests which can be ordered online as part of efforts to eradicate the disease.
It says the Hepatitis C Elimination Programme has already reduced deaths from the disease by 35 per cent, exceeding the World Health Organisation target of 10 per cent reduction.
Users of the kit provide a blood sample with a finger-prick which is returned to the NHS for lab analysis. Those with a positive test result will then be contacted and referred for treatment.
It is hoped that the self-testing kit will better reach people who may not be engaged with other services, such as drug and alcohol support, prison and probation services. It is also aimed at people who may have potentially been exposed to the virus in the past, or who do not feel able to approach their GP.
NHS national medical director, Professor Sir Stephen Powis, said: “I’m delighted we are on track to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health threat by 2030, which may rank among the most significant NHS successes in history, alongside the mass vaccination of polio and diphtheria, organ transplants and driving down smoking rates.
“As patient numbers get smaller and each remaining case becomes harder to find and cure, it’s vital we offer easy-to-access self-test kits — especially for those who have been exposed to the virus but may be reluctant to come forward. This latest tool will therefore be critical to ensuring more people can receive the treatment they need, or peace of mind, at the earliest opportunity.”
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