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Infected blood working group

Published: 2 Sep 2016 10:00

Report recommends awareness campaign.

A targeted awareness campaign will be carried out to trace anyone who had a blood transfusion before September 1991 and has still not been tested for Hepatitis C.

The measure is one of three recommendations made by a working group set up in the wake of the Penrose Inquiry into infected NHS blood products. All the group's recommendations were today accepted by the Scottish Government.

The working group was established by Health Secretary Shona Robison to assess the number of people who contracted Hepatitis C from blood or blood products in Scotland's NHS before September 1991, and how many could still be undiagnosed. It also looked at whether uptake of blood tests had increased after the Penrose publication, and if any further action is needed to trace undiagnosed people.

There have already been advertising campaigns and look-back exercises undertaken in the past to trace those at risk. The group considered what more can be done to find the remaining small undiagnosed group.

Their recommendations, which will be carried out in full, are:
• Delivering a targeted awareness campaign focussed on people who received a blood transfusion before September 1991
• The identification and written offer of a blood test to a group of up to 71 plasma recipients who are as yet unknown to have been tested
• A letter from the Chief Medical Officer to all clinicians to remind them of the need to offer Hepatitis C tests to certain at risk groups.

The awareness campaign will be launched later this month aimed at anyone who had a blood transfusion in Scotland before September 1991 and asking them to seek advice from the Hepatitis helpline, the NHS Inform website or their GP practice. As part of the campaign, posters and flyers will be distributed to a number of community buildings, such as pharmacies, libraries and GP surgeries.

Work to identify the plasma recipients is already well underway. It is far less likely that this group of people with mild bleeding disorders has remained undiagnosed for this length of time, given that they will usually have registered with a Haemophilia Centre.

The working group estimated there could be a small number of undiagnosed people still alive in Scotland who were infected with Hepatitis C by pre-1991 blood transfusions. The risk of infection is small, but anyone who was seriously ill in hospital before September 1991 and thinks they might have had a blood transfusion will be encouraged to seek further advice.

Health Secretary Shona Robison, said:

"One of the key issues which arose from the Penrose Inquiry was whether there are any people who received Hepatitis C from blood transfusions before September 1991 who have not yet been diagnosed. Although look-back exercises have been carried out in the past, I established this working group to try and assess the scale of this issue.

"The number of patients likely to be infected is very small, and the lack of historical medical records makes tracing them difficult. However, it is possible there are still people yet to be tested and unaware of their infection, and so I have today accepted all these recommendations to ensure that everything possible is done to find people who may have been infected and offer them the best care and treatment.

"Treatments for Hepatitis C have improved greatly in recent years. I would urge anyone who thinks they had a blood transfusion before September 1991 to seek advice from the Hepatitis helpline or their GP practice about a test if they have not yet done so."

Professor David Goldberg, Health Protection Scotland and Chair of the Working Group, said:

"I am delighted that the Scottish Government has accepted all of the group's proposed recommendations. These comply with the Penrose Inquiry recommendation that all reasonable steps be taken to offer a Hepatitis C test to people who had a blood transfusion pre-September 1991 and who have not already been tested.

"The Scottish Government action is in keeping with its general response to tackling Hepatitis C – one which is regarded by the World Health Organisation and the World Hepatitis Alliance as a model of excellent practice, and one which is consistent with Scotland's strategic aim to eliminate Hepatitis C as a serious public health concern."

Background

The full report can be read here: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/09/5853

Testing for Hepatitis C was introduced on 1 September 1991 so anyone who received transfusions after that date is not at risk.

Further information about Hepatitis C – including symptoms and where you can get a test – is available at http://www.nhsinform.co.uk/ or www.hepatitisscotland.org.uk or by calling the Hepatitis helpline in confidence on 0800 224488. The helpline is provided by NHS 24 in partnership with Hepatitis Scotland and is available from 8am to 10pm 7 days a week.