Sadiq Khan questioned on omission of hepatitis C from London health inequalities strategy

In a London Assembly debate on the Mayor’s draft health inequalities strategy earlier this month, Conservative Assembly Member Susan Hall expressed her disappointment that hepatitis C had been excluded from the flagship document. The current draft of the strategy includes bold targets for reducing HIV in London, and a similar commitment to tackling tuberculosis, but contains only a passing mention of hepatitis C.

An estimated 41,500 people in London are living with hepatitis C, of whom approximately 40% remain undiagnosed. London has the highest rate of hepatitis C infection of any region in the country, accounting for over a third of all reported diagnoses in England. The number of people living with hepatitis C varies widely across London local authorities, reflecting population differences closely related to inequalities like drug use, ethnicity, and prison populations.

Susan Hall AM highlighted that she had written to the Mayor in August regarding the importance of a firm commitment to tackling hepatitis C in London, and questioned why the Mayor’s affirmation that this was a ‘significant issue disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable and excluded citizens’ did not translate to inclusion in the health inequalities strategy.

Professor Yvonne Doyle CBE, Health Advisor to the Mayor, fielded most questions during the debate, stating that the Mayor’s office was fully committed to tackling hepatitis C and working with The Hepatitis C Trust. However, Susan Hall AM countered that if this was truly the case, the commitment should be made explicit within the strategy, which would drive forward work on hepatitis C and give Assembly Members and the public an opportunity to scrutinise and engage with related initiatives.

The Hepatitis C Trust submitted a response to the public consultation on the draft health inequalities strategy, calling for the inclusion of hepatitis C and urging the Mayor to set ambitious targets for the elimination of hepatitis C in London. Our contribution is reflected within the Consultation Response Report produced to guide the evolution of the strategy. We will continue to engage with the Mayor’s office and relevant Assembly Members to advocate for the inclusion of hepatitis C in the final health inequalities strategy.

See the full London Assembly debate here, with discussion on hepatitis C starting at 1.05.30.