The British Liver Trust brought their new Love Your Liver mobile to Senedd Cymru on Tuesday 14 March, to showcase their work to improve liver health to the Welsh parliament and offer free liver screening and scanning to Members of the Senedd (MSs) and members of the public, who visited the unit to learn about risk factors for liver disease and have a liver scan.
The Health Minister Baroness Morgan joined the team and spoke to Pamela Healy OBE, chief executive at the British Liver Trust, and Dr Andrew Yeoman, Hepatology Clinical Lead for Wales about how to improve care and outcomes for people with liver disease and liver cancer in Wales.
13 cross-party MSs visited the roadshow on the day and gave their backing to the British Liver Trust’s campaigns and policy calls. Our team spoke to them about our work to improve early diagnosis of liver disease and liver cancer in Wales, including the need to roll out non-invasive liver scans in primary and community care, and expansion of the hepatology workforce, which is critical to improve liver disease services for patients in Wales.
During the day, 94 people, including MSs and members of the public, had a non-invasive liver scan, which measures the stiffness of the liver. As a result, seven people thought to be at high-risk of liver disease were provided with a letter to take to their GP.
Pamela Healy OBE, chief executive at the British Liver Trust said: “I am thrilled to hear from Baroness Morgan that the Welsh Government have committed over £13 million in prevention and intervention to reduce obesity, alcohol misuse and viral hepatitis which are key risk factors for liver disease.
Liver disease deaths have more than doubled in the last 20 years, in stark contrast to other major killer diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, which have remained stable or decreased. While 90% of liver disease is preventable and caused by alcohol misuse, obesity and viral hepatitis, the alarming reality is that three quarters of people are diagnosed with cirrhosis (most severe form of liver disease) in hospital when it’s too late for effective intervention or treatment.
Pamela adds: “Liver disease is a barometer for the nation’s health – we need to improve prevention, early diagnosis and patient care if we are going to meaningfully start reducing liver disease deaths and it’s increasing prevalence in the population.”
The number of people diagnosed with liver disease in Wales has more than tripled (358% increase) between 2002 and 2021 rising from 11,630 to 53,261. People living in the most deprived areas of Wales are most at risk with three times the number of alcohol-related liver disease diagnoses in these areas.
Dr Andrew Yeoman, Hepatology Clinical Lead for Wales said: “We are facing a liver disease crisis in Wales with mortality rates increasing by an alarming 23% in the last two years alone. Improving early diagnosis and care in Wales is a priority to reduce the number of preventable deaths. Wales has made huge steps in improving early detection of liver disease with the implementation of the All-Wales Abnormal Liver Blood Test Pathway, but we need to make sure this is being done effectively across all Health Boards.”
Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services, said: "It’s vital that we increase awareness around risk factors for liver disease such as alcohol and obesity. I am keen for health boards to support earlier detection and prevention of liver disease and ensure that our Quality Statement for liver disease is effectively implemented across Wales."