The British Liver Trust calls for action as 10% rise in liver disease deaths in a year

Posted on: 17th November 2021

We are demanding that the Government take urgent action to improve early detection of liver disease as data reveals that premature deaths from liver disease in England increased by almost 10% in a single year.

Public Health England figures show liver disease deaths in England rose from 9,218 in 2019 to 10,127 in 2020[i].

Three quarters of people with cirrhosis are currently diagnosed when it is too late for effective intervention or treatment. Recently published research in the British Journal of General Practice shows that the majority of the government’s new regional bodies responsible for commissioning (called Integrated Care Systems) do not have adequate pathways in place for the early detection of liver disease and that many GPs do not have access to adequate tests to diagnose people early. This is in sharp contrast to other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. [ii].

“As a GP myself, I know that primary care professionals are under huge pressure at the moment,” says Dr Helen Jarvis, Clinical Advisor for the British Liver Trust. “We therefore need to put in systems that make it easy for primary care to effectively find people with liver disease so that they can be proactively managed and referred on to secondary care if necessary.  Unfortunately, many GPs report that they do not feel confident or have the knowledge to support patients. As a result, people with liver disease are diagnosed far too late when treatment options are limited. This had led to thousands of avoidable deaths.”

Today we have launched an interactive map of our survey results which show a large part of the country do not have an effective pathway in place for the early detection of liver disease. Members of the public can visit the map and find out the state of liver disease pathways in their area.

We are calling on the government to work with health services to make early diagnosis routine by ensuring that a systematic pathway is commissioned and implemented in these areas and that this is evaluated on a regular basis.

Pamela Healy OBE, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “Liver disease is a public health crisis which is expected to overtake heart disease as the biggest cause of premature death in the UK in the next few years. Many of these deaths and the overall increase in liver disease also disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities. If the government is serious in addressing these inequalities they need to target deprived areas, and ensure that there are effective liver disease pathways across the country.

“We need the government to act now to implement the changes we’re calling for. There are areas of excellent care but at the moment there is a postcode lottery – implementing pathways for early detection across the UK will save many lives.”

We are calling on members of the public to support the campaign to make early diagnosis routine by writing to their MP. We're also hosting a free webinar to update our supporters on the progress we've made so far.

[i] Liver disease profiles: November 2021 update - GOV.UK (