DRUG and alcohol misuse services in Wessex have secured funding to extend a pioneering outreach project.

The scheme, Hep C U Later, is aimed at testing, treating and curing those affected by Hepatitis C.

Chronic Liver Disease is the fifth biggest killer in the UK and is the only major cause of death which is continuing to rise.

It is estimated that in the UK 0.5 per cent of the population are infected with Hepatitis C with 214,000 individuals affected.

Louise Hanford, south coordinator of Hep C U Later said: “This is an excellent collaborative team effort. We will be bringing care to those most affected with targeted test and treat clinics at suitable locations across the county, including hotels, hostels and supported housing provision where many of our patients are living”.

In the autumn of 2020, NHS England offered local Operational Delivery Networks funding to provide clinical outreach vans to reach patients not currently engaged with services.

Due to the success of this clinical van initiative during COVID, funding has been secured to offer an extended van provision across the whole of Wessex in conjunction with Hampshire County Council.

This is a pioneering project and the first of its kind being headed up by a community drugs service and Hep C U Later, a partnership between the NHS Addictions Provider Alliance and Gilead Sciences, which is working to eliminate Hepatitis C.

Led by Inclusion, an NHS drug and alcohol misuse service, the project works across a vast geographical area with the support of local authority, health and voluntary sector partners.

Since September 2020 the van provision has enabled 29 patients to be treated, over 100 to be tested and diagnosed an additional 17 individuals with Hep C who may not otherwise have been picked up. The extended service goes live on June 2021 1.

Mark Wright, Lead Consultant Wessex Operational Delivery Network said: “Many of the people we would like to help are unable to access traditional hospital services. The clinical van service engages these people and supports them in their rightful access to treatment. Without this service they would once again be excluded and would be denied treatment for a life-threatening condition”.