Political leaders speak out in support of World Hepatitis Day

Hepatitis C is a rarity among public health issues – one we can eliminate in a short amount of time. Political leaders from across the political spectrum have spoken out on World Hepatitis Day to express their support for elimination. Ambitious action and firm political commitment to tackling hepatitis C is a no-brainer; it will save countless lives and is highly cost-effective. 

On behalf of the UK Government, public health minister Steve Brine said: 

“World Hepatitis Day is an important opportunity to reiterate the UK Government’s commitment to not only meeting the World Health Organization goal of eliminating hepatitis C as a public health threat by 2030, but beating it. For too long, hepatitis C has been overshadowed by other public health concerns. We are now determined to make progress towards ensuring the virus is eliminated and welcome NHS England’s recent announcement of an ambition to achieve elimination as a public health threat by 2025, five years earlier than the WHO target.

Since the arrival of new treatments for hepatitis C, we have seen encouraging progress in England with deaths resulting from hepatitis C falling for the first time in a decade in 2016-17, something which was sustained in 2017-18. Between 2014 and 2016, there was a 3% fall in deaths from hepatitis C-related end-stage liver disease. However, we recognise that there is more to do. We are determined to find and treat the 40-50% of hepatitis C patients who remain undiagnosed and to linking into care those previously diagnosed but not treated.  World Hepatitis Day is a time to reflect not only on what has already been achieved, but also to renew our efforts in tackling hepatitis C; we can and will achieve elimination of hepatitis C as a public health threat.”

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Scotland has historically been regarded as a world leader in its approach to tackling hepatitis C, and the Scottish Government remains committed to achieving elimination of hepatitis C as a public health concern.

It is wonderful to see the progress being made now that new treatments are available that can cure hepatitis C with far fewer side effects than with the medicines of the past. I know that these treatments are making a huge difference to the lives of people who have been affected by hepatitis C.

The number of people being treated for hepatitis C in Scotland has increased in recent years and we are determined to sustain this trend. To enable this, it is absolutely vital that we identify the estimated 40% of people with hepatitis C who remain undiagnosed in Scotland, and I hope World Hepatitis Day will contribute to encouraging people to come forward for testing.

Hepatitis C is a virus that disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged members of society and that is why this Government is committed to decreasing stigma, treating more people and, ultimately, eliminating hepatitis C as a major public health concern."

First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones said:

“To mark World Hepatitis Day, I reaffirm the Welsh Government’s commitment to eliminating hepatitis C as a significant public health threat by 2030. Hepatitis C treatment has been revolutionised with cure rates of around 95%.

Our next step is for health boards to contact people who were previously diagnosed with hepatitis C at a time when treatment either wasn’t available or wasn’t acceptable. Doctors in Wales will be writing to these people over the coming months to request that they come forward to be retested and, if necessary, receive the new treatment available. I urge people who receive these letters to come forward and receive treatment.   

The big challenge now is to raise awareness of hepatitis C among the general public and, particularly, those who may have an undiagnosed infection. World Hepatitis Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the condition and I urge anyone who believes they may have been at risk to get tested so they can receive treatment.”

Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said:

"The Scottish Conservatives welcome and support the Government’s continued commitment to eliminate hepatitis C by 2030. The challenge is to upscale the innovative solutions that will make this commitment a reality, particularly making treatment available in the community and ensuring that savings from the ever-declining cost of treatment are reinvested into finding those still undiagnosed.

We look forward to scrutinising the Government’s upcoming hepatitis C elimination plan and working with the Government to ensure its implementation. Scotland used to lead the world in our determination to eliminate hepatitis C and, with elimination now firmly within reach, it’s time to mark World Hepatitis Day by doing so again."