Hepatitis C is a chronic and often symptomless liver disease that is deadly if left untreated. In 2020, Public Health England estimated that 118,000 people were living with the dreadful virus which is commonly spread via contaminated needle injections and is prevalent in extensive drug users.
Our NHS APA member, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH), provides a wide range of specialist mental health and substance misuse services across Greater Manchester. We are pleased to share that they have announced the launch of a promising new programme to help eliminate the major public threat.
Volunteer and peer mentor programme launches in Greater Manchester to test, treat and cure Hepatitis C
On World Hepatitis Day, 28 July 2021, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) is launching a volunteer and peer mentoring programme to help support people who are at risk of having Hepatitis C to get tested, treated and cured.
The programme will be led by Achieve, GMMH’s Addictions Services, which operate across Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford; and supported by the Addictions Provider Alliance, an alliance of NHS addictions service providers from across the UK.
Hep C peer mentors and volunteers will use their experiences to educate at-risk people about Hep C and empower them to make an informed choice about testing and treatment. They will offer a mixture of one-to-one support and group-based workshops.
The volunteer and peer mentor programme is part of GMMH’s Hep C micro-elimination strategy. Micro-elimination is an approach to tackling Hep C, which focuses on supporting particular groups of people who are more at risk from Hep C, such as drug users. This means treatment and prevention support can be tailored to the specific needs of these groups.
The aim is to support as many people as possible under GMMH’s Addictions Services in Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford to get tested for Hep C, and for those who test positive to get treated and get cured.
Through the Hep C micro-elimination strategy, all Achieve Addictions Service staff are also being trained to test for blood-borne viruses using dry blood spot test kits to extend testing opportunities across all service user groups, and processes for self-testing of service users in some cases are also being developed. Strong links with acute Trusts who provide hepatitis treatment clinics across Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford will ensure those who test positive are referred to treatment.
Jonathan Miller, Achieve Service Manager, said; “We are so pleased to launch our volunteer and peer mentoring programme. We are a proud member of the APA, and are delighted to have received funding from them to implement a Project Lead, who will recruit, train and provide ongoing support to our volunteers and peer mentors.
“In recent years, there has been significant advancement in treatment for hepatitis C, with the side effects of treatment now greatly reduced, and cure rates of 95%.
“Through providing tailored practical and emotional support to our service users, we hope to significantly increase the numbers of at-risk individuals who are tested for hepatitis, with those who test positive moving on to treatment and, ultimately, getting cured as a result.”
“In recent years, there has been significant advancement in treatment for hepatitis C, with the side effects of treatment now greatly reduced, and cure rates of 95%.”
If you are interested in becoming a peer mentor or volunteer visit https://www.gmmh.nhs.uk/volunteering.
If you or someone you know is affected by addiction and may have hepatitis C, please visit https://www.gmmh.nhs.uk/achieve to find your local service. You can also find more information on the Hep C U Later website.
About Hep C
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can cause serious damage to your liver. The symptoms can go unnoticed for years.
The main way you can catch Hep C is by coming into contact with the blood of an infected person. This could be through injecting drugs without using sterile equipment, tattoos and piercings without using sterile equipment, medical or dental treatment abroad where there are high rates of hepatitis C, unprotected sex, or blood transfusion prior to 1992.
If you or someone you know is affected by addiction and may have hepatitis C, please visit www.gmmh.nhs.uk/achieve to find your local service. You can also find more information on the Hep C U Later website.
All of us at NHS APA, and our partner, HepCULater, are dedicated to the cause of testing and treating all cases of the virus, and this launch brings us one step closer to meeting our target of eliminating Hepatitis C by 2023.