Message from our CEO, Rachel Halford

This is an exceptionally difficult time and we are here to support you. COVID-19 is the biggest challenge our NHS has faced and it is already having a huge impact across  our society.

During this crisis we are determined to ensure anyone affected by hepatitis C receives the care and support they need. For those who have started on hepatitis C treatment we are working with hospitals and clinics across the country to deliver medication and providesupport.

Our helpline remains open and our community team is working to support patients where safe and appropriate to do so.

I understand many people are concerned about the risk of serious illness from this new virus. The best source of information for people who are at higher risk remains the government’s guidance here.

We’re still learning more about who is most at risk from COVID-19 and we have yet to see evidence that hepatitis C infection in itself is linked to severe illness as a result of the virus.

However, those who have liver cirrhosis or liver damage as a result of long-term infection may be at additional risk. Those who have completed interferon treatment in the past may have a weakened immune system. If you have any concerns that this may be you we would advise that you take extra care in terms of social distancing.

Government advice on who should consider themselves at very high risk, and the action they should take to ‘shield’ themselves can be found here. This does not cover most people who have or have had hepatitis C, it currently only includes people having treatment for cancer or who have had liver transplants.

We know many of the people we work with on a day to day basis such as those who are homeless or using drugs are likely to be at higher risk due to underlying health conditions. Therefore, as a charity, we’re looking at how we can best support the services we usually work with and make sure those people who’ve already started treatment are able to complete their treatment and clear hepatitis C.

What can everyone do?

· Follow the government’s advice and stay at home if you can.

· Look after your emotional and mental health well-being. The charity Mind has a number of resources and tips which you can find here.

· Stay connected to people close to you by phone and video calls if you can, and keep in touch with those who need your help too.

For those working in homeless shelters, drug and alcohol services and healthcare settings, HCV Action will be working to share relevant resources with advice on how you can help support these vulnerable groups.

While this may impact on the effort to eliminate hepatitis C in the short term, we will use this time to support those most in need and plan for a renewed drive for the elimination of hepatitis C when Covid-19 is no longer the threat it is today.

As we know from our own experiences of tackling a very different virus, things can, and will, get better. Stay strong and get the support you need. Please contact our helpline for further information by calling 020 7089 6221, by emailing helpline@hepctrust.org.uk, or message us through our Facebook page.

Stay safe, wishing you all well

Rachel