MPs call for urgent action to tackle surging deaths caused by late diagnosis of liver disease

Posted on: 23rd January 2023

On Tuesday 17th January, the British Liver Trust and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer invited MPs from across 4 nations to attend an awareness raising event on the liver disease epidemic in the UK.

91 MPs joined us on the day to pledge their support for our campaign to save lives through earlier diagnosis of liver disease, including 75 MPs from England, 9 MPs from Wales, 5 MPs from Scotland and 2 MPs from Northern Ireland. 55 MPs underwent a non-invasive liver scan.

Some MPs had a reading that was indicative of liver damage and these Members were given the opportunity to discuss their results with leading clinicians who supported the event. They were also given a letter to take to their GP so that the results could be followed up in a clinical setting.

The event was an opportunity for the British Liver Trust to highlight our policy calls to parliamentarians. We encouraged MPs to call for a full review of liver services, write to their Integrated Care Boards to improve early diagnosis and get involved in the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on liver disease and liver cancer.

Liver disease is a silent killer that is largely asymptomatic in its early stages. 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 Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust said: “We were delighted to have 90 MPs join us to support our vital campaign to improve earlier diagnosis of liver disease. With liver disease deaths doubling in the last 20 years, urgent action is needed to accelerate the roll out of pathways for the earlier detection of liver disease across the UK.”

Wayne David MP, Co-Chair of the APPG on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer, said: “Research from the British Liver Trust shows that only 26% of the UK has effective pathways in place for the early diagnosis and management of liver disease. There is also huge variation in liver disease treatment and outcomes across the UK which we believe can only be effectively addressed through a full review of adult liver services”

The Chair of the Health Select Committee, Steve Brine MP, a co-sponsor of the event added: “the British Liver Trust’s check your liver health event is a great way for MPs to have a liver scan and to hear more about liver disease and liver cancer.

“The alarming rise is liver disease cases is directly linked to liver cancer, which is now fastest rising cause of cancer death in the UK as 8 in 10 people with HCC, the most common primary liver cancer, have underlying cirrhosis. By prioritising the nation’s liver health and improving early diagnosis of liver disease, we can tackle this public health crisis.”

The British Liver Trust team were supported by a team of clinicians who were able to share insights on the issues facing liver disease in the NHS. We are grateful for the support of Dr Mathis Heydtmann, the Specialty Advisor (Hepatology) to the Chief Medical Officer in Scotland, Professor Douglas Thornburn, Consultant hepatologist at the Royal Free in London and Debbie Shawcross, Professor of Hepatology and Chronic Liver Failure at King's College London.