Liver disease crisis in Wales to come under the spotlight at Senedd Cymru

Posted on: 11th January 2023

Senedd Members will today (11th January) debate the urgent action required to curb the alarming rise in liver disease deaths in Wales, which have surged by 23% in just two years.

Coming two months after the Welsh government published a Quality Statement for Liver Disease, Members of the Senedd are paving the way to improve early detection and prevention of liver disease in Wales.

Joel James, Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central and Chair of the Cross-Party Group on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer, will open the debate. He says, “We are facing a liver disease crisis in Wales with mortality rates being the worst in the UK. The Government needs to prioritise liver disease and ensure their new approach, announced in November, does not undo the good work in progress. We are calling for a doubling of the hepatology workforce, better earlier detection, and more Alcohol Care Teams in hospitals to help those in critical need of support.”

The cross-party debate is the first to take place in the Senedd on liver disease – coinciding with ‘Love Your Liver awareness month', which aims to raise awareness of the steps that people can take to improve their liver health and reduce their risk of developing liver disease.

90% of liver disease is preventable and if caught at an early stage, liver damage can often be reversed. However, the alarming reality is that three-quarters of people diagnosed with cirrhosis are found when it is too late for effective intervention or treatment.  One in four people diagnosed late in hospital will sadly die within a couple of months.

Joel James MS continues: “We also need to improve preventative measures so less people get liver disease, make sure those with liver disease are diagnosed early and that there is the workforce in place to give patients the care they need.”

The UK’s leading liver health charity, British Liver Trust, has welcomed the news of the parliamentary debate.

Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust says, “We are delighted to be holding the first debate on liver disease in the Senedd Cymru, secured by Joel James MS, the Chair of the Cross-Party Group on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer.

"This is a timely debate as January is Love Your Liver awareness month - when we are putting a spotlight on the steps people can take to improve their liver health. I would urge anyone who is worried about their liver health to visit our website and take our simple quiz to see if they are at risk

“While the Welsh Government’s publication of the Quality Statement for Liver Disease in November is a welcome development, we want to ensure that this does not de-prioritise liver disease within the NHS and Health Boards in Wales.”

Hepatology Clinical Lead for Wales, Dr Andrew Yeoman, adds: “As we transition to the Quality Statement for Liver Disease and a new NHS Executive structure, we are keen to ensure that the progress we have made at a clinical level continues to improve.

“The All-Wales Abnormal Liver Blood Tests Pathway, launch in 2021, is a good example of early detection work we have pioneered. It is essential that this programme, to improve the early detection of liver disease by GPs, and other work does not lose momentum.

“The new approach should improve the NHS’s ability to prioritise cross-cutting public health issues and more effectively manage delivery. There are however concerns, within the clinical community, that the new strategic clinical networks may in practice de-prioritise liver disease services. Liver disease needs to be considered separately from other gastroenterology services. We are keen to ensure that we build on recent progress.”

The British Liver Trust will visit the Senedd Cymru on 14th March 2023 with their Love Your Liver Roadshow. The roadshow will be located at Roald Dahl Plass and will provide liver scanning and screening to raise awareness of liver disease with Members of the Senedd and the public.