Celebrities back NHS first as Barts Health NHS Trust leads national campaign to routinely test emergency patients for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

Monday 13 October 2014

Barts Health NHS Trust is launching a national campaign, Going Viral, to routinely test emergency patients for three common viruses; HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

Celebrities backing the campaign include actor Richard Wilson and DJ and presenter Tim Westwood who will visit The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, during the week. Elton John, Sadie Frost, group The Horrors and singer songwriter, HIV activist and The Mayor of London's HIV Ambassador Annie Lennox will all tweet their support. Actor Tom Wilkinson has also put his name to the campaign.

In a first for the NHS, from 13 - 20 October 2014, everyone having a blood test at ten hospitals across the UK* will also be offered a blood test for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C. One quick blood sample will be tested for all three viruses.

The campaign will reach out to hospitals across London, Leeds, Leicester and Glasgow.

The joint effort aims to prove that routine screening of people in areas most at risk will save lives and reduce transmission to others.

World-wide, in 2010, viral hepatitis caused 1,445,000 deaths – compared with 1,465,000 attributable to HIV, 1,196,000 from TB and 1,169,000 from malaria.

Over half of the people living with HIV or Hepatitis in the UK were diagnosed late. There is very little routine screening for Hepatitis in GP clinics and hospitals and HIV testing is not widespread. As symptoms often present late in the illness, there are many missed testing opportunities within the NHS to prevent the viruses from causing severe damage and being transmitted to other people.

Forty-nine year old Peter Martin, from Shoreditch in London, was diagnosed with Hepatitis C more than twenty years ago. After taking new medication available, he has his appetite back and says that he is no longer struggling to cope.

Peter explained: 'I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C more than twenty years ago. The deterioration is gradual, but after a few years you can feel you are not the same person. I would tell my friends that I was missing 50% of my personality and character.

‘But after undergoing new treatment for Hepatitis C, to say that I am returning from a very dark and unproductive place in my life is the understatement of the year.

‘I have had the most amazing recovery. I am suddenly able to focus my ideas - my brain is lit up like a Christmas tree!’

London is leading the call to action, with seven hospitals in the capital supporting the campaign, being spearheaded by Barts Health NHS Trust which is testing in all three of its emergency departments (at Newham, The Royal London and Whipps Cross hospitals). Anyone testing positive will be informed by the hospital within two weeks and referred to a specialist clinic for care.

Nationally, each year one in four people will attend an A&E. Every year, around 2.6 million people attend London’s emergency departments, providing an important opportunity to test people for the three viruses.

Dr Chloe Orkin, Consultant Physician at Barts Health NHS Trust and lead for Going Viral, explained: ‘I would urge everyone who is offered the test to take up this important opportunity. It is shocking to think that over half of the people living with HIV or Hepatitis in the UK were diagnosed late.

‘New treatments mean that now is an excellent time to find out your HIV and Hepatitis status. Patients treated for HIV can live a normal lifespan and new Hepatitis C drugs cure more than 80% of those treated. We can vaccinate people in contact against Hepatitis B, and treat those infected with medications.'

As only people attending the emergency departments who need a blood test will be offered the chance to be tested, anyone who is experiencing symptoms or concerned that they may be at risk should contact their GP or visit a sexual health clinic.

All three viruses are spread in similar ways, through contact with blood and body fluids of infected people.

Going Viral follows a successful similar, smaller campaign last year called Test Me East. The week-long campaign offered all outpatients across Barts Health NHS Trust the opportunity to be tested for HIV. The campaign tested approximately 96 per cent (2,400 of 2,500) patients during the week and found 8 HIV positive people, who all went on to receive care and treatment.

Actor Tom Wilkinson, who is backing Going Viral, said: ‘HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C are the commonest serious viral illness in this country. People often don't know they are infected and half of those infected are diagnosed late. That's why early screening for the viruses in hospitals is so important - take a test if you are given a chance.’

Professor Jane Anderson, expert advisor on sexual health, reproductive health and HIV at Public Health England and Consultant in Sexual Health and HIV at Homerton University Hospital, commented: ‘Going Viral is a very exciting initiative exploring innovative ways of reaching people, giving additional opportunities to improve their long term health through increased testing.

‘PHE is delighted to be working with the expert team at Barts Health, supporting the evaluation of this project. This includes setting up databases to allow a full analysis of the data collected during the going viral week.’

Charles Gore, Chief Executive of The Hepatitis C Trust, added: ‘This is an extraordinarily important initiative. In all three blood-borne viruses we have excellent treatments but they are of no use to anyone if they are sitting on a pharmacy shelf because we have failed to diagnose the people who need them. This is particularly true of Hepatitis C where new drugs becoming available mean we can completely cure almost everyone we diagnose.

‘Added to that, by testing a broad cross-section of society this will give us a much better picture of just how many people are infected across the UK and how many we still have to find.’

NAZ Project London, supported by Terrence Higgins Trust, has also added its support to the campaign, saying: ‘NAZ is very pleased to see the launch of this important campaign. As HIV/HBV/HCV disproportionately affects BAME communities in the UK, it is vitally important that such an integrated and innovative testing strategy be rolled out across the UK hospitals.

‘This has the great advantage of testing individuals of all ethnicities who may otherwise not voluntarily access testing services for blood-born viruses.'

- ENDS -


NOTES TO EDITORS

*The ten hospitals taking part in the Going Viral campaign include:

The Royal London Hospital, Whipps Cross Hospital and Newham Hospital (Barts Health NHS Trust), HIV prevalence in Tower Hamlets is 6.2-8/1,000, Newham 6.5/1000, and in Waltham Forest 4.7/1000;

Queen’s Hospital, Barking, and King George Hospital, Goodmayes (Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust), HIV prevalence in Barking is 5.7/1000;

Homerton University Hospital (Homerton University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust), HIV prevalence in Hackney is 7.7/1000;

St Thomas’ Hospital (Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust), HIV prevalence in Lambeth is 14.4/1000 - the highest in the UK;

St James’s University Hospital (The Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust), Leeds HIV prevalence 2.2/1000;

Leicester Royal Infirmary (University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust), Leicester HIV prevalence 3.6/1000;

Glasgow Western Infirmary, (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde) HIV Prevalence in Glasgow City Central is 2.7/1000;

Media information:
For filming and interview opportunities 13-17 October 2014 or more information about Going Viral, please contact Heidi Mulhall, Press and Social Media Officer, Barts Health NHS Trust on 020 7709 6509 or Heidi.Mulhall@bartshealth.nhs.uk

About HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C

HIV: 47 per cent of people with HIV are diagnosed late. HIV is now a treatable illness and life expectancy can now be the same as someone without the illness. 80 per cent of people who die of HIV within a year of diagnosis are diagnosed late, so it is vital that people are diagnosed as early as possible and receive effective care. HIV is treated with antiretroviral medication (ARVs), which stop the virus from replicating and reduces transmission to others.

The HIV prevalence in Lambeth (St Thomas’s Hospital catchment area) is 14.4/1000 and the highest in the UK. In east London, four to five times as many people are living with HIV than the national average. In Tower Hamlets, where The Royal London Hospital is based, six per 1,000 people are infected with HIV (6.2-8 per 1000/population vs. 1.5 per 1000/population)

About viral hepatitis: Viral hepatitis is also a significant contributor to cancer. Globally, viral hepatitis is responsible for 78% of primary liver cancer - the fifth most important cause of world-wide cancer mortality in men and sixth in women.

Hepatitis B: In recent years, the number of people with longstanding Hepatitis B in the UK has risen sharply from 180,000 in 2004 to 326,000 in 2007. It usually causes no symptoms but long-term complications from the illness can be fatal.

London sees the highest numbers of new cases of Hepatitis B across the UK. In east London, Hepatitis B is most commonly transferred at birth from infected mothers. It can also be spread sexually or through unsterile medical or dental practices abroad.

A vaccination is available to treat family members at risk of transmission to provide lasting immunity against being infected.

Hepatitis C: It is believed that half of those living with Hepatitis C are not aware of their status. In England, the number of deaths from Hepatitis C has quadrupled between 1996 and 2012. Long-term complications from the illness can be fatal. Many people barely notice any symptoms until their livers are severely damaged, leading to the illness being dubbed a ‘silent killer’.

Nearly 1 in 5 liver transplants carried out in 2011 arose from Hepatitis C-related cirrhosis. Between 1996 and 2012, the number of registrations for liver transplants in England from Hepatitis-C related cirrhosis increased nearly three-fold.

In many communities, haircuts, nose and ear piercing, shaving babies’ hair and circumcision are possible routes of infection for Hepatitis. Unsterile medical and dental practices abroad are a major cause of Hepatitis C transmission, especially in South Asian communities. One quarter of people in the UK with Hepatitis C live in London.

Recent national guidelines published by the British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommend the extension of HIV testing into settings like A&E to reduce undiagnosed and late HIV diagnoses and improve individual and public health outcomes. Guidance published by NICE has also provided recommendations on increasing testing for Hepatitis C and B infection in other high prevalence settings . In the UK, the threshold for recommendation of expanding testing into A&E is ≥ 2 per 1000 population; 64 Local Authorities in England comply with this including all nine Going Viral sites.

Barts Health NHS Trust
With a turnover of £1.25 billion and a workforce of 14,000, Barts Health NHS Trust is the largest NHS trust in the country, and one of Britain’s leading healthcare providers. The trust’s six hospitals – St Bartholomew’s (Barts) Hospital in the City, The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, The London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green, Newham University Hospital in Plaistow, Mile End Hospital and Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone – deliver high quality compassionate care to the 2.5 million people of east London and beyond.