On 18th May 2022, we held our first Love Your Liver roadshow outside the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood to raise awareness of liver disease, and our campaign for earlier detection and better treatment for people with liver disease with Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).
Over 35 MSPs and their staff attended the event and most participated by taking our liver screener, which assesses the risk factors and received a liver scan. The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Humza Yousaf, Minister for Public Health, Maree Todd and Chair of the Health Committee, Gillian Martin, as well as a number of Health Committee members attended the roadshow. Jackie Baillie MSP sponsored the event and was the first member to visit the mobile unit.
Scotland has a significant liver disease crisis with around 900 deaths each year. In 2020, liver disease was one of the leading causes of death in Scotland in those under the age of 75. Mortality rates are also four times higher in deprived areas compared to more affluent areas. One of the causes is believed to be rising levels of obesity, which has caused significant increases in ‘non-alcohol related liver disease’ over the last few decades.
Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “Scotland’s liver disease statistics are shocking. 1 in 5 people may be walking around with liver disease and be completely unaware because they have no symptoms.
“90% of liver disease is reversible if detected at an early stage. Sadly, liver disease often has no obvious symptoms in the early stages and is often referred to as a ‘silent killer’. Three-quarters of people with cirrhosis are diagnosed when it is too late for effective intervention or treatment and one in four people diagnosed late in hospital sadly die within 60 days.”
We are calling on every Health Board in Scotland to have an effective pathway for the early detection of liver disease so that we can save lives and improve the nation’s liver health.”
British Liver Trust research published in a peer review journal revealed that of the 14 Health Boards in Scotland, 5 have no pathway for the early detection of liver disease in place, 4 Health Boards have a partial pathway and only 5 Health Boards had a full patent care pathway in place. Our ‘make early diagnosis of liver disease routine’ campaign seeks to address this. We are calling on MSPs to work with their Health Board to improve the early diagnosis of liver disease across Scotland. Our priority is to ‘turn the map green’ and ensure all Health Boards have full patient care pathways in place. These pathways then need to be effectively used in primary care.
One of the key policy calls is for MSPs to support prioritising the urgent rollout of intelligent Liver Function Tests (iLFTs) across Scotland. iLFT were developed by Professor John Dillon at Dundee University and can be implemented by all Health Boards in Scotland to improve the early diagnosis of liver disease and save lives.
Dr Mathis Heydtmann, Consultant Hepatologist and Specialty Adviser to the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, who supported the event, said:
“There is widespread variation in the identification, treatment and management of liver disease in primary and secondary care in Scotland. The implementation of intelligent Liver Function Testing (iLFTs) can significantly help in timely referral to specialist care and reduce the liver disease burden in Scotland.”
The event raised awareness of liver disease with Members of the Scottish Parliament and provided an opportunity to share the work of the British Liver Trust and take forward more substantive policy conversations with government to improve patient outcomes and care in Scotland.