Warning over liver disease impact

Herald Series: MPs have warned of the "catastrophic consequences" of not tackling liver disease MPs have warned of the "catastrophic consequences" of not tackling liver disease

The Government must address the "catastrophic consequences" of ignoring the burden of liver disease, MPs have said.

An inquiry report from the All-Party Parliamentary Hepatology Group (APPHG) accused NHS England of ditching plans to produce a strategy for tackling liver disease, which kills just under 11,000 people a year.

The British Liver Trust has predicted that spend on combating liver disease will reach £1 billion a year within the next decade.

Today's report said the Government, the NHS and Public Health England must take action to stem the tide of increasing liver disease.

Recommendations include a minimum 50p unit price for alcohol and the co-ordination of a national approach to preventing disease as well as ensuring better care and early diagnosis.

Action is also needed on obesity and eliminating hepatitis C within the next 15 years, the APPHG said.

Liver disease is the fifth biggest - and fastest-growing - killer in the UK but a lack of obvious symptoms means it can be diagnosed at a late stage.

Figures show that a third of people in the UK with liver disease have obesity-related non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Alcoholic liver disease is also responsible for around 66% of all alcohol-related deaths.

Meanwhile, estimated 216,000 people in the UK are infected with hepatitis C which can also cause liver disease.

Public health minister Jane Ellison announced in December that NHS England had no plans to publish a National Liver Disease Outcomes Strategy, which the APPHG said had been three years in the drafting.

Tory MP, David Amess, who chairs the APPHG, said: "The launch of today's inquiry report is a wake-up call for the nation.

"Liver disease is the only one of the UK's top five causes of death where death rates continue to rise and there is no national strategy to tackle this. Unless urgent and co-ordinated action is taken now, in less than a generation, liver disease has the potential to be the UK's biggest killer.

"As most liver disease can be prevented, this is a tragic waste of life."

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said, "Liver disease is a national scandal and more must be done to prevent, diagnose and treat the condition.

"We cannot sit by and allow so much needless suffering and death. Liver disease destroys lives and puts a significant financial burden on society. We need decisive action now."

Charles Gore, chief executive of the Hepatitis C Trust, added, "There is so much more that could be done to prevent the escalating death toll from liver disease.

"For example, only 3% of hepatitis C patients receive potentially life-saving treatment each year. With the new treatments we could effectively eliminate the virus in the UK within a generation. The Government, Public Health England and all parts of the NHS urgently needs to prioritise action on the causes of liver disease."

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