Health Minister Helen Whately has confirmed that FibroScan services will be made available in 100 Community Diagnostic Centres. This is a major policy development and demonstrates the success of a joint British Liver Trust and UK Liver Alliance campaign calling for an assessment of fibrosis to be included in all these newly announced Centres.
The British Liver Trust and other members of the UK Liver Alliance have been holding meetings and liaising with Sir Mike Richards CBE who Chaired the Independent Review of Diagnostic Services for NHS England to ask that all Community Diagnostic Centres include an assessment for fibrosis. As part of the work, we provided a new patient pathway showing how community diagnostic centres could be effectively used to improve early diagnosis.
Following a letter from the UK Liver Alliance to the Secretary of State for Health, the Health Minster has replied to confirming that liver scanning services will be rolled out to 100 Community Diagnostic Centres.
Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust said,
“We are delighted to have confirmation that the Department of Health will be providing liver scanning services in 100 Community Diagnostic Centres by March 2025. This is a fantastic campaign success.
Up to one in three adults in the UK are at risk of liver disease. There are no obvious symptoms in the early stages and three quarters of people are currently diagnosed with cirrhosis when it is too late for effective treatment or intervention. Finding out early is vital and can save lives.
We are keen to see liver scans or blood tests that assess fibrosis made available as part of routine clinical care nationally – in GPs surgeries and community health settings. This is a great step in the right direction.”
As part of the work with the UK Liver Alliance, we are also asking for a new national pathway for blood tests, and we are waiting to hear if this will be adopted. This pathway advocates for the use of an automated system called Intelligent Liver Function Tests (iLFTs). Developed in Dundee, iLFTs provide a simple way to minimise primary care workload and streamline referrals. In summary,
- the GP takes a simple blood sample and sends it to the laboratory.
- A new software analyses the results and puts them in an algorithm – if necessary, it sends the same sample for more advanced tests.
- It then generates an automatic report with all the results and the suggested diagnosis that advises the GP what to do next.
This system is now live in several regions of the NHS. There is evidence that shows that it increases the diagnosis of liver disease nearly 3-fold and is cost saving to the NHS at over £3,000 per patient with abnormal liver blood tests.
There is a liver disease crisis with liver disease and liver cancer caused 2.5% of all deaths in England in 2020. Almost half of these deaths occur in people of working age ages 15 to 64. Recent data shows there has been a 64% increase in the number of premature deaths from liver disease in the past 20 years. People dying from alcohol-related problems also sadly reached a new high in 2021, increasing by 27% from 2019, 78% of these deaths were due from alcohol-related liver disease. The statistics from the devolved nations are similarly alarming.