Hepatitis C

Our work

NHS Health Scotland, through its drugs programme, works closely with local NHS boards and their partners to support the delivery of key outcomes in the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework.

There are an estimated 39,000 people currently living in Scotland with a chronic (long term) hepatitis C infection and more than half of these people are undiagnosed. Chronically infected people are at increased risk of serious liver disease and cancer but their prognosis improves with early diagnosis and treatment. Being aware of one´s hepatitis C status can enable people with a hepatitis C infection to take steps to ensure the effective management and treatment of their condition and prevent the onward transmission of the virus. Raising awareness of testing and treatment can therefore play an important contribution in preventing transmission of hepatitis C.

The Scottish Government launched the Hepatitis C Action Plan in 2006, which was completed in two phases and its key aims now continue to be progressed through the Scottish Government Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework 2011-15.
The Hepatitis C Action Plan for Scotland Phase I (external link) set out the Scottish Government’s Hepatitis C Action Plan for the period September 2006 – August 2008. Phase I of the Action Plan was formulated to raise awareness of hepatitis C as a serious public health issue and to generate an evidence base to inform the actions detailed under
Phase II of the Action Plan
 (external links).

The Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework
 (external link) recognises that there should be strategic links across sexual health and blood borne viruses and adopts an integrated approach across four areas of public health policy, which are addressed individually in the body of the framework:

  • Sexual Health and Wellbeing
  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency virus)
  • Hepatitis C
  • Hepatitis B

The Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework outcomes relevant for hepatitis C are:

  • Fewer newly acquired hepatitis C infections
  • A reduction in health inequalities associated with hepatitis C
  • People affected by hepatitis C lead longer, healthier lives
  • A society whereby the attitudes of individuals, the public, professionals and the media in Scotland towards hepatitis C are positive, non-stigmatising and supportive.

Around 90 per cent of those infected with hepatitis C acquire the virus through injecting drug use behaviour (sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment).
NHS Health Scotland supports the framework outcomes by developing the programmes below.

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The Hepatitis C Peer to Peer Education Pilot among injecting drug users, is a pilot initiative
to increase understanding of hepatitis C risk factors related to injecting behaviour. Informed from international evidence, the project has been specifically designed to enhance the levels of engagement with people who inject drugs in order to increase understanding of safer injecting methods and access to testing for the virus to reduce levels of onward transmission of hepatitis C.
The evaluation is now complete, and the final evaluation report is now available.

The Break the Cycle programme aims to assist practitioners working with people who inject drugs, to support their clients to help Break the Cycle of others moving to injecting: identifying strategies to help injectors avoid or refuse initiation requests, and providing opportunities to discuss alternatives to injecting in order to reduce harm.
A training resource has been developed which aims to enable practitioners to raise the topic of initiation into injecting with people who inject drugs. It seeks to enhance the skills and knowledge of practitioners drawing on their experiences of their work with drug users.
The Training Pack and Practitioner Workbooks were published in early 2012. NHS Health Scotland will continue to support the integration of Break the Cycle into routine practice within addiction and harm reduction services.

At a national level, the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Governance Board will review progress against the framework outcomes. This will be chaired by Scottish Government and comprises of representatives of NHS board Sexual Health and Blood Borne virus Executive Leads and national organisation leads.

A Blood Borne Virus Prevention Leads Network (Non-Sexual Transmission) has been convened to support the implementation of the Framework in line with the governance, performance management and support arrangements for the Sexual Health and BBV Framework. Their primary focus is the prevention of blood borne viruses in the context of injecting drug use in Scotland and each NHS board will have a designated lead person with a strong understanding of recovery from problem drug use and with responsibility for driving the BBV prevention agenda locally (eg. via safer injecting practise, provision of injecting equipment, education/peer initiatives to reduce initiation and/or sharing).

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Guidance and educational support materials on hepatitis C

These resources were developed within the context of Curriculum for Excellence to meet the information needs of at risk and vulnerable young people by Learning and Teaching Scotland, a predecessor organisation of Education Scotland. This was initially undertaken as part of Scottish Government’s Hepatitis C Action Plan for Scotland and continues to meet the hepatitis C information needs as outlined in the Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework 2011-15.

Hepatitis C Teaching Guidance and Educational Support Materials – Mainstream Schools (Secondary and Primary). How to raise awareness of hepatitis C amongst pupils and suggestions on how this learning can be incorporated across the curriculum. 

Hepatitis C Teaching Guidance and Educational Support Materials – Specialist Settings. How to raise awareness of and discuss the risks associated with hepatitis C with vulnerable young people. 

Hepatitis C Teaching Guidance and Educational Support Materials – Further Education Colleges. This provides information about hepatitis C and guidance on how staff can raise awareness with students within Further Education settings. 

Hepatitis C Teaching Guidance and Educational Support Materials – Training Provider Guidance . This document supports training providers with guidance on ways to incorporate messages about hepatitis C into existing drug and sex education training for staff working in Mainstream Schools, Specialist Settings and Further Education Colleges.

PowerPoint Presentation – Hepatitis C: Facts, myths and raising the Issue. This short PowerPoint presentation on hepatitis C can be used in conjunction with the above resources to support learning on hepatitis C.

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Updated 23rd July 2014

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