I’m Ryan Buchanan, a specialist registrar doctor in liver disease and a PhD student carrying out research for NIHR CLAHRC Wessex. My project is centred on Hepatitis C in the Isle of Wight community.
Hepatitis C is a virus, which unlike other viruses such as ‘flu’ or the common cold directly affects your liver. It is usually passed from person to person via blood and develops into a long lasting infection. The virus actually causes very few symptoms allowing it to hide within the body making people unaware they carry it.
Hepatitis C is common; it affects over 150million people worldwide and causes hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. In the United Kingdom there are estimated to be over 200,000 infections and on the Isle of Wight alone there are estimated to be almost 350.
Historically hepatitis C has been difficult to treat but things are changing, treatments are becoming increasingly effective and have fewer side effects which means more people can get treated and more people can be cured. Despite these advances we are still faced with huge challenges. Unfortunately up to 50% of patients with Hepatitis C are undiagnosed and many people have limited access to treatment. On the Isle of Wight alone up to 200 cases remain unidentified and many of the cases that have been identified remain untreated.
To address this I, in collaboration with CLAHRC Wessex, and Isle of Wight health care providers have streamlined the Isle of Wight pathway for Hepatitis C.
We have a hotline number available to health care professionals and community outreach clinics. In addition we have set up a pharmacy testing service with a ‘point of diagnosis’ liver specialist outreach consultation – this usually consists of me, arriving by bicycle.
The Pharmacy testing initiative has been advertised with help from the Isle of Wight public health service, this campaign has included local radio appearances, newspaper articles and local bus adverts.
My specific research interest within the project is centred on establishing whether the pharmacy testing initiative is reaching the network most at risk of contracting hepatitis – this remains work in progress!
In the long-term we aim to establish a local hepatitis C treatment service on the Isle of Wight. Alongside new medications and case-finding initiatives this could dramatically reduce the number of Hepatitis C cases and the burden this places on the community and local health care services.