A parliamentary event is being held in Westminster today (16th January 2024) in response to alarming new data released by the British Liver Trust, which has revealed that one in ten people scanned at their Love Your Liver roadshow in 2023 had signs of liver damage, prompting the need for heightened awareness and action.
At the drop-in event, MPs and Peers from across the four nations will have the opportunity to have a non-invasive liver scan (FibroScan), which measures the stiffness of the liver, and be educated on the importance of early diagnosis of liver disease.
Liver disease often develops silently with no signs or symptoms. At the moment, three-quarters of people are diagnosed with cirrhosis at a point when it is too late for effective treatment. People therefore often don’t realise they have a problem until the damage is irreversible. However, if found early damage can be halted and sometimes reversed.
The British Liver Trust is urging 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.
Virendra Sharma MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer, says: “Research from the British Liver Trust shows that there are huge variations in patient care and outcomes across the UK. Only 36% of health bodies across the UK have a ‘green’ pathway for the early detection and management of liver diseases.
“90% of liver disease is preventable. If caught at an early stage liver damage can often be reversed. At the moment, 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 with liver disease late in hospital sadly die within a couple of months.“
In 2023, the British Liver Trust took their roadshow to over 20 locations across the UK scanning over 3000 people. Almost 10% of attendees had liver scans that revealed potential indicators of liver disease.
Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust said: “These figures are particularly shocking because our roadshow is not specifically targeting people at risk. It allows anyone who happens to be in the town a chance to find out more about liver disease and to have a free non-invasive scan. Liver disease is therefore likely to affect far more people than previously thought.
"Liver disease serves as an indicator of the nation's health. To significantly decrease liver disease deaths and its growing prevalence in the population, there is a crucial need to enhance prevention, early diagnosis, and patient care."
January is Love Your Liver Awareness month, which is devoted to promoting good liver health and the prevention of liver disease. 9 in 10 liver disease cases are preventable and linked to alcohol, excess weight, and viral hepatitis.
Dr Mathis Heydtmann, Consultant Hepatologist and Specialty Adviser to the Scottish Chief Medical Officer said: “The recent annual report of the Chief Medical Officer shows that alcohol-related liver disease is the only leading cause of death in England that is significantly increasing rather than decreasing. It is imperative that everybody, in particular policy-makers and MPs, understand the importance of liver health on society as a whole."
“Liver disease is the main cause of primary liver cancer, which is the fastest growing cause of death by cancer in the UK. The good news is that there are things you can do to reduce your risks. Avoiding drinking alcohol excessively, maintaining a healthy weight, and protecting yourself against viral hepatitis are the best ways to protect yourself against both liver disease and liver cancer."
If you are worried about whether you are at risk of liver disease, the British Liver Trust has a free screener on their website www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener