PHE responds to Infected Blood Inquiry Chair

Public Health England has responded to the Infected Blood Inquiry Chair Sir Brian Langstaff's recent letter expressing disappointment at the lack of focus on hepatitis C patients infected through blood transfusions in this year's Hepatitis C in England report. 

The letter from Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive of Public Health England, states that PHE is "committed to finding individuals who may have been infected with HCV via infected blood transfusions and other routes". However, Selbie writes that the Hepatitis C in England/Hepatitis C in the UK reports are written to match the framework of the World Health Assembly Global Health Sector Strategy (GHSS) on viral hepatitis for the period 2016-2021 and, with injecting drug use currently the main route of acquisition of hepatitis C in the UK, there is therefore a focus on harm reduction in these groups.

The letter also highlights ways PHE is supporting efforts to find patients infected with hepatitis C via routes other than injecting drug use, including "through a number of different resources and evidence reviews for healthcare workers and commissioners, including providing guidance to GP and patients regarding the Inquiry." Selbie also refers to the ongoing PHE and NHS England patient re-engagment exercise, which aims to "identify patients who were diagnosed with hepatitis C in the past – acquired through infected blood transfusions, drug use, or other routes – to ensure they can access the new, curative treatments that have become available in the last few years."

The letter concludes: "We fully acknowledge that infected blood transfusions have had a tragic impact on individuals and their families. This is why we, and others, are working on a number of initiatives to ensure these people are identified and treated. However, the Hepatitis C in the UK report, and accompanying news story, has a necessary focus on the individuals who are the most likely cohort currently at risk and undiagnosed – people who have injected drugs in the past, or currently." 

The original letter from Sir Brian can be read here