To mark Love Your Liver month, we hosted a successful parliamentary liver health awareness day in Westminster. More than 80 MPs and Peers, including the Health Minister, Andrew Stephenson MP and the opposition Health Minister, Preet Kaur Gill MP, attended the event aimed at addressing the alarming rise of liver disease in the UK, as new data released by the British Liver Trust has revealed that one in ten people scanned at our Love Your Liver roadshow in 2023 had indicators of potential liver damage.
The event on 16th January 2024 was organised by the British Liver Trust in conjunction with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer. Throughout the day, Parliamentarians, Peers and staff were given the opportunity to have a non-invasive liver scan (FibroScan), which measures the stiffness of the liver.
Gordon, Emma and Monica, three amazing patient advocates, were also there to share their personal stories with politicians. Gordon, who was diagnosed with Fibrosis during the pandemic, told MPs: “It was identified in time, which then gave me a chance to give up alcohol, which I did two years ago. If you get it [a diagnosis] early enough it can be reversible. It did take the shock of a diagnosis to make me change my lifestyle.”
Liver disease develops silently with no signs or symptoms and in 2022, more than 12,000 people in the UK died from the disease. At the moment, three-quarters of people are diagnosed with cirrhosis at a point where 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 because 90% of liver disease is caused by obesity, excessive alcohol use and viral hepatitis.
Philip Hunt, Baron Hunt of Kings Heath, OBE, PC and a Labour Co-operative member of the House of Lords, said at the event: “I have been a health minister in the past and I am very concerned about the incidence of liver disease in our country and of the need for early detection and treatment. And so, I am very pleased to be here [at the Parliamentary Liver Health Awareness Day] to help launch this campaign and to give my support to it. It is really important that the NHS as a whole responds and ensures that in all parts of the country we do have the opportunity to get an early diagnosis and treatment of this terrible disease.”
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.
In 2023, the British Liver Trust took its roadshow to over 20 locations across the UK scanning over 3,000 people. Almost 10% of attendees had liver scans that revealed potential indicators of liver disease.
Recognising the significance of early detection of liver disease, the British Liver Trust is calling for routine assessments of liver disease to occur in a primary care setting and for health bodies across the UK to have a full pathway in place for the early detection and treatment. Currently, less than 1 in 5 Integrated Care Systems (8 of 42) in England have a full pathway.
Virendra Sharma MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer, says: “Educating MPs and Peers on the importance of improving liver patient care is extremely necessary, because research from the British Liver Trust shows that there are huge variations in 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, and this needs to change.
“90% of liver disease is preventable, and 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. This is why the APPG on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer is advocating for the government to address these variations and support our policy call for all Integrated Care Boards and Health Boards across the UK to have an effective pathway in place for the early detection of liver disease.”
Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust said: “I am delighted by the outcome of the Parliamentary Check Your Liver event. Liver disease is the third leading cause of deaths under the age of 75 and mortality rates have doubled in the last two decades. It is critical that MPs not only understand that the UK is facing a liver disease crisis, but the importance of keeping their own liver healthy.
“Liver disease is a silent killer because many people do not know they have it until it is too late. The results of the Love Your Liver roadshow show that people may be unknowingly walking around with a liver condition. 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. 90% of liver diseases being preventable linked to alcohol, excess weight, and viral hepatitis. To find out if you could be at risk of liver disease, complete the British Liver Trust's free online liver health screener on their website www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/screener