Raising awareness of liver disease in parliament

Posted on: 23rd February 2021

2021 will mark a pivotal year for the health landscape as the NHS continues to grapple with COVID-19.

  • The pandemic has already prompted major change and the NHS recovery will need to be a priority for Government and Parliament, in particular how to restart and redesign non-COVID-19 services. We need to make sure that  liver disease and liver cancer are central to these plans.
  • The heightened attention on obesity, prompted by the Prime Minister’s personal experience of being hospitalised due to COVID-19, presents a key opportunity to draw attention to the broader challenges posed by liver disease and has already resulted in the new obesity strategy

The British Liver Trust’s new Sound the Alarm campaign provides a strong national platform for engagement heading into next year.

Since our parliamentary event in February 2020, we have been arranging meetings with members of parliament, to update them and to raise awareness . This is a key part of our campaigning on behalf of all people affected by liver disease and liver cancer ensuring your voice is heard where it matters most.

We work across the UK, engaging with parliamentarians and key policymakers within the NHS to increase awareness and influence decisions that will improve care, treatment and outcomes for patients. This year our focus is on raising awareness of liver disease generally in parliament and specifically our calls for action around improving early diagnosis.

These meetings have successfully resulted in a number of questions being raised in parliament.  See below for recent examples

Parliamentary questions

Oral Question tabled by Tracey Crouch MP

Question: COVID-19 has highlighted the susceptibility of people with liver disease to develop more serious cases of the virus. It is also known that liver disease has become one of the major causes of premature mortality in the UK. What plans does the Minister have to include improvements to liver care as part of the NHS’s recovery plans?”

Answer: Minister for Care Helen Whately MP answered by highlighting that the development and improvement of clinical care for liver disease is supported by NHS England’s Hepatobiliary Clinical Reference Group (CRG). She noted that the CRG has started work to develop liver networks in England to enable quicker access to specialised liver services as well as providing clinical advice on disease prevention and referral practice.

In response to Tracey’s question on plans to include improvements to liver care as part of the NHS’s recovery plans, the Minister referenced the £1 billion funding provided for NHS recovery in last year’s Spending Review. She also noted that, in addition to addressing the backlog, the Department of Health and Social Care would continue to improve the care provided and help people to live healthier lives and prevent illness.

 Written questions tabled by Alex Norris MP, Shadow Public Health and Patient Safety Minister:

 Questions

  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what data his Department holds on the number of patients diagnosed with (a) liver disease, (b) alcohol-related liver disease and (c) non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in each local authority area in each of the last five years.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what comparative assessment his Department has made of the number of deaths due to liver disease and other major diseases; and if he will make a statement.
  • To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what estimate his Department has made of the number of people with undiagnosed liver disease.

Jo Churchill MP, Minister for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care answered that Public Health England (PHE) does not hold data on liver disease in the format requested. PHE publishes data on the number of hospitals admissions and deaths from liver disease, alcohol-related liver disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, rather than diagnoses. In 2020, PHE published a comparison of liver disease to other causes of death, which is available at the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/liver-disease-applying-all-our-health/liver-disease-applying-all-our-health

PHE has not made an estimate of the number of people with diagnosed liver disease.

The British Liver Trust will continue to campaign on behalf of people with disease in parliament and across the devolved nations. See here for more information about our Sound the Alarm campaign: https://britishlivertrust.org.uk/sound-the-alarm/

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