The British Liver Trust welcomes the Welsh Government’s publication of a Quality Statement on Liver Disease – a vital next step towards tackling huge disparities in liver disease care and outcomes across Health Boards.
The Welsh Government have been at the forefront of efforts to improve earlier detection and outcomes for liver disease patients in the UK – being the first nation to introduce a dedicated Liver Disease Delivery plan in 2015 and All Wales Abnormal Blood Tests Pathway in October last year.
However, swift implementation of the Quality Statement is urgently needed to keep pace with the rising scale of the liver disease crisis in Wales and pressure this is placing on the NHS.
Liver disease deaths have more than doubled in the last 20 years driven by rising obesity, alcohol misuse and viral hepatitis. Chronic workforce shortages in hepatologists and liver nurse specialists across Wales are exacerbating health inequalities facing liver disease patients, particularly in deprived areas and underserved health boards.
Pamela Healy OBE, chief executive at the British Liver Trust said: “The Quality Statement could deliver a step change in tackling unwarranted variation in liver disease care and outcomes across Wales. But translating this vision into reality demands a long-term funding settlement to recruit, train and retain a resilient liver care workforce”
Chair of the Cross Party Group on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer, Joel James MS added: “Liver disease patients in Wales face huge inequalities in access to specialist care. Pledges to scale up the secondary care workforce and expand 7 day alcohol care team provision across Health Boards are welcome but must be implemented as a matter of urgency.”
Demand for liver services is projected to rise sharply in coming years. Mortality rates due to alcohol related liver disease spiked by 20% during the pandemic and are expected to surge during the cost of living crisis. This has been mirrored by a rising prevalence of non-alcohol related fatty liver disease (NAFLD) driven by the obesity crisis. Alarmingly, over 60% of adults in Wales are now classified as obese or overweight.
The British Liver Trust welcome the renewed focus of the Quality Statement on collaboration between hepatology and diabetes and obesity services, alcohol and substance misuse services, and the chronic viral hepatitis network to ensure prevention is at the heart of government action to improve the nation’s liver health.
The British Liver Trust continue to work closely with the Liver Disease Implementation Group (LDIG) and with the Cross Party Group on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer to drive improvements to early detection, quality of care and outcomes for liver disease and liver cancer patients across Wales.