An NHS Tayside initiative to improve access to testing and treatment of Hepatitis C in people receiving opioid replacement therapy has been recognised at a national awards ceremony.
A team led by NHS Tayside’s Public Health Directorate was awarded Best Treatment Pathway Initiative in the 2015 Quality in Care (QiC) Programme Awards Hepatitis C category for its project ‘Testing and treatment of Hepatitis C through community pharmacist-led care’.
The greatest risk of acquiring Hepatitis C (HCV) in the United Kingdom is through injecting drug use and the largest single infected group are those who are prescribed opioid replacement therapy (ORT). Currently only small numbers of highly-motivated patients in this group come forward for HCV treatment through the existing NHS pathways.
As this group usually receives their daily ORT from a community pharmacist, the team looked at the feasibility of redesigning the pathways to use community pharmacy services as a way for patients to access testing and treatment.
The team carried out a series of focus groups involving patients from this traditionally hard-to-reach group and found that they were supportive of care being provided from community pharmacies. The pathways have now been finalised and will be tested initially in eight pharmacies across Tayside with plans to roll out to around 100 pharmacies across Scotland next year.
The project was commended by the award judges who said, “This is a fantastic model and is the way forward, with potential to replicate in GP practices. It meets national objectives and shows great community awareness.”
This is the second year in a row that NHS Tayside has been awarded Best Treatment Pathway Initiative after its Hepatitis C Managed Clinical Network won in 2014. NHS Tayside also scooped the Best Diagnosis & Testing Programme award last year for Dundee Community Health Partnership’s work on ‘Improving Outcomes for Patients with Blood Borne Viruses in Dundee’.
Hepatitis C is a virus that can infect the liver. If left untreated, it can sometimes cause serious and potentially life-threatening damage to the liver over many years. However, with modern treatments it’s often possible to cure the infection and most people with it will have a normal life expectancy.