A campaign launched in Parliament this week paints an alarming picture of the liver disease crisis in the UK with the majority of health areas lacking any effective pathway to diagnose people with a liver condition.
At the launch event of Make Early Diagnosis of Liver Disease Routine, the British Liver Trust is calling on MPs across the UK to take steps to improve how liver disease is managed in their constituency to ensure that more people are diagnosed early enough to receive effective intervention or treatment.
In the UK, deaths due to liver disease have more than doubled in the last 20 years and the condition kills over 10,000 people every year.
Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “Late diagnosis is costing the lives of thousands of men and women each year as three quarters of people with cirrhosis are diagnosed in hospital when it is too late for them to have life-saving treatment.
“We are launching our campaign in parliament to call for urgent action to stop this silent killer in its tracks, and are calling on the government to work with health services to ‘make early diagnosis of liver disease routine’ by ensuring that a systematic pathway is commissioned and implemented in these areas and that this is evaluated on a regular basis.”
The charity has mapped their pathway data on to the new Integrated Care System boundaries that have replaced Clinical Commissioning Groups in England and equivalent bodies in the devolved nations and found that three quarters of the UK do not have an effective pathway in place for the early detection of liver disease. This is in sharp contrast to other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, where patients receive standardised care.
“Our research has shown that there are areas of good practice and that the changes we’re calling for are entirely possible,” continues Pamela. “We now need to take what’s working well in those areas with good liver patient care and apply them in others so that every person with liver disease gets the best possible care, no matter where in the UK they live.”
Liver disease is often diagnosed late because the symptoms are either vague or non-existent in the early stages but also little is known about the disease by both the public and healthcare professionals.
Samantha Hartin who lost her mum to non-alcohol related fatty liver disease spoke at the event and says: “My mum was diagnosed with Non-Alcohol related Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) on 19th April 2018 and sadly passed away just four days later, just six days after her 57th birthday. At her inquest, the coroner cited missed opportunities for diagnosis and treatment.”
Members of the public can support the campaign Make Early Diagnosis of Liver Disease Routine by finding out about the state of liver disease care and treatment in their area and writing to their MP.