Hepatitis C screening now offered from Tower Hamlets GPs

GPs in Tower Hamlets will now be offering Hepatitis C testing to help increase diagnosis and  treatment for this life threatening disease.

In the run up to World Hepatitis Day on 28 July, the council and its partners across health services are drawing attention to Hepatitis C – a virus that affects the liver, doesn’t have any symptoms and is a major cause of liver cancer.

The borough-wide screening is thought to be the first in the country and was launched by Mayor John Biggs, Jubilee Street practice GP Dr Salma Ahmed, Professor Graham Foster, Consultant Hepatologist from NHS Barts Health and Queen Mary University of London and Dr Stuart Flanagan from Queen Mary University of London.

Jubilee Street Practice was one of four practices in Tower Hamlets that participated in the HepFree study, which aimed to find better ways to test and treat people from ethnic minorities.

The study, run by Barts Health NHS Trust and Queen Mary University of London, found that people living in Tower Hamlets who were born in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Poland, Romania and Somalia were shown to be at highest risk of having Hepatitis C as well as those people who have

  • a history of injecting drug use including steroids
  • HIV
  • Men who have sex with men with previous history of an STI

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets said:

“As this study showed parts of our population to be at a higher risk, we are committed to introducing targeted Hepatitis C testing with our partners across primary care.

“This way we can not only treat people who have Hepatitis C but also help stop new infections.” 

Sir Sam Everington, local GP and chair of Tower Hamlets CCG said:

“Many people have hepatitis C without realising it because, even if they do have symptoms, they are non-specific and may be mistaken for lifestyle factors or another condition. 

“This free, confidential screening service will provide you with on-the-spot advice which could help give a crucial diagnosis, information and reduce your risk of potentially life-threatening liver damage.”  

Professor Graham Foster, Consultant Hepatologist at NHS Barts Health and Professor of Hepatology at Queen Mary University of London, said:

“I am delighted that local people will now benefit from screening in direct response to the findings of our study. Effective screening and early diagnosis enables appropriate treatment, also reducing the risk of passing the infection to others.

“Recent medical advances mean hepatitis C can now be treated quickly, effectively with tablet only treatments that have virtually no side effects. There are rarely any symptoms of Hepatitis C infection, but if left untreated it can go on to cause cancer and life threatening damage to the liver. I urge those who may be at particular risk to visit their GP for the simple and effective blood test.”  

For more information on Hepatitis C http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Hepatitis-C/

For further information about this release please call the Tower Hamlets Press office on

020 7364 4389 communications@towerhamlets.gov.uk