The Hepatitis C Trust’s Helpline Information and Support Service continues to operate during COVID-19 outbreak

Sam and Susan run our helpline for anyone who needs help or has concerns about any issues relating to hepatitis C, by providing information and support by phone, social mediaand email.

The helpline team takes thousands of calls each year from people, many of whom have been recently diagnosed and are concerned about what their diagnosis means. At the moment although people continue to be tested for hepatitis C in primary care many hospitals have stopped taking referrals to follow up or start people on treatment due to the need to prioritise responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. That makes the helpline an even more valuable resource for people who have just been diagnosed but are unable to start treatment.

Sam says: “We’ve heard from some people recently who have just learnt of their diagnosis via a telephone consultation with their GP,. Of course they want to access treatment as soon as possible but they can’t even get a date for their follow up appointment at hospital for bloods and scans. Knowing you’ve got hepatitis C but not knowing how it may have affected you or when you can get treatment at a time when you might be isolated from friends and family who’d otherwise offer support can really increase their anxiety.

“The good news is that we can offer support, reassurance and answer any questions that people may have in the meantime. It’s been good to hear just how much of a positive impact we’ve been able to have on a variety of different calls. They’ve really been grateful for the information and reassurance we are able to offer at this difficult time.”

One caller recently told us, “You were there for me when I was diagnosed in 2004, through my treatment in 2006 and you are there for me now, even during this crisis, thank you so much”

We’ve diverted helpline calls to the phones of our staff now working at home so you can continue to call our confidential helpline on 020 7089 6221 between 10:30am and 4:30pm on weekdays.  If you can’t get through or call outside these hours, please leave a message with your name and telephone number and we will call you  back. You can also email helpline@hepctrust.org.uk or message us through our Facebook page.

Everyone who works on the helpline has lived experience of hepatitis C.

Currently, the British Society for Gastroenterology says thatall recipients of a liver transplant taking immunosuppressing medication and patients with autoimmune hepatitis taking immunosuppression medication are at very high risk of severe reactions to COVID-19 should follow government guidance on ‘shielding’.

They also note that “patients with decompensated liver cirrhosis have increased risk and we recommend they adhere strictly to social distancing measures in order to protect themselves.”

You can read more about how our community team is support people with hepatitis C here.