How coronavirus has affected our Hepatitis C strategy

28 July 2020

By Tracey Kemp, National Hepatitis C Strategy Lead 

Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the way we run our services. For the Hepatitis C team, it meant we paused testing, as did most other providers.   

Stopping testing caused us anxiety. It also gave us an opportunity to slow things down, reflect and prepare for what to do next. 

Using lockdown as an opportunity to reflect 

We took the opportunity as a team to review our current processes and look for new opportunities. Although testing was on pause, our treatment pathways were still active. This meant we had to explore new ways of working. 

This has included: 

  • A full review of how we test people 
  • The development of a new blood borne virus pathway. This means the whole journey from testing for Hep C, right through to referral, and then succesful treatment.  

Our new blood borne pathway is close to launching. When it does, we will be sharing our documents internally and externally. We want to be open about how we are working to do things better. We'd be interested to hear from anyone else working on similar pathways too. 

Supporting people into treatment  

Data is important as it helps us understand who is using our services, and how we can better support them. Our 4 regional Hep C coordinators have worked with our data team to make sure we are still supporting people into treatment. 

We continued referring people into treatment and worked closely with the Hepatitis C trust, who were supporting with testing throughout lockdown.   

Through this, we learned new ways of working together to make sure people were getting the help they needed. 

Working together 

It has been a difficult time for those working on the frontline, with new challenges to face. We work in collaboration with other organisations like the Hepatitis C Trust. This means that even in new and unexpected circumstances, we can keep testing at the forefront of people's minds. 

As part of our work with Gilead, we attend a Hepatitis C provider forum. It includes key providers who are part of an elimination project. It means we can all work together and learn from each other. 

What’s next 

We must be realistic about how people are feeling at the moment.  A lot has changed and will likely continue to change. It's important that we don't overwhelm people, and we make them feel safe and supported.  

It’s important that we take enough time for people to feel comfortable, but we are working hard so that we can restart testing and treating Hepatitis C when we’re able to. 

If you’d like to find out more about testing and treatment for hepatitis C, please speak to someone from your local service. To test, we take a tiny blood sample by pricking your finger. If the test shows that you've got a blood borne virus, we can help you get specialist treatment.