Success of first ever mass-testing of hepatitis C in a category A prison


Spectrum has helped spearhead the first hepatitis C mass-testing and treatment ever performed in a category A prison within the UK. This impressive feat was achieved at HMP Full Sutton over a two day period.

Together with HMPPS, the Humber and North Yorkshire NHS Operational Delivery Network (ODN) team and The Hepatitis C Trust, Spectrum commenced the mass-testing on November 14.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that causes significant damage to the liver. One of the most common routes of transmission is via drug-sharing equipment; The Hep C Trust states that the prevalence of the disease within prisons is approximately 6%, compared to 0.7% in the community’s adult population.

Initially, the teams set out to test using a common method called a High Intensity Test & Treat programme (HITT). However, due to some challenges (including security protocol) the method evolved into a Locally Initiated Testing and Treatment – LITT.

Out of the 584 prisoners offered hep C testing, 514 accepted – 87%. 15 of those prisoners tested positive; 12 had been treated previously, with the remaining three prisoners given counselling and treatment. 161 staff members at Full Sutton were also tested.

The completion of LITT, in such a small timeframe, was a pioneering achievement for everyone involved. Dr Nicholas Easom, NHSE Humber and North Yorkshire ODN Clinical Lead, praised Spectrum staff and the respect shown to them by prisoners; “The success of this mass-testing relied on delivery by trusted individuals – and in this case, that was the prison’s healthcare staff.”

Lisa Hope, Spectrum’s Head of Clinical Services at Full Sutton, said, “It was a fantastic team effort, with many outside agencies coming together with the staff of Full Sutton to enable mass-testing for hep C. Out of the 87% tested, three individuals tested positive. They were advised/counselled regarding the result, scanned on the same day and then treatment commenced within a three day period. This proved to be an effective, rapid service for people being tested and treated in such a short time scale.”

Tim Bailey, HMPPS Head of Specialist Units at Full Sutton, said, “This was the first time that hep C mass-testing was completed in a high security prison and we had to work closely with Lisa Hope to ensure the testing went smoothly. Due to the security protocols in place, it was not possible to use the expert knowledge of The Hep C Trust on testing days – which meant that Lisa needed to co-ordinate the process. Lisa and her team worked hard to engage the prison population in order for them to be tested; she achieved some impressive results with the vast majority of prisoners volunteering to be tested and making the initiative a huge success. Through Lisa’s efforts, we were able to identify prisoners who were unaware they were positive, allowing for treatment to commence. The process of conducting mass-testing will be shared by Lisa with other high security prisons, so this success can be replicated going forward”.

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