Publish date: 28 July 2021


World Hepatitis Day marks arrival of a new van to find & treat homeless patients


Tens of thousands of people in England who have hepatitis C could now get tested and treated thanks to a new mobile health unit arriving to coincide with World Hepatitis Day on 28 July.


Find & Treat screen tens of thousands high risk people every year using a mobile unit based at UCLH. During the pandemic they offered COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccination to homeless people.


Now a new high-spec clinical van joins an existing van fitted for chest x-rays used to diagnose TB to help Find & Treat continue their mission to tackle a wide range of infectious diseases amongst the most vulnerable people.


The COVID-19 pandemic showed that where infectious disease is concerned testing is absolutely vital to halt spread. In common with COVID-19 most hepatitis C are unaware of their infection. There are reliable tests and treatments for hepatitis C but testing efforts were disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Many hepatitis C infections are undiagnosed due to a lack of clear symptoms, testing is essential to find those in need of treatment. If left untreated over many years the virus can cause serious and fatal liver damage. By finding, testing and treating serious illness is prevented and future infections are stopped with the ultimate aim to eliminate hepatitis C as a public health concern.


Professor Alistair Story, founder and clinical lead of the UCLH Find & Treat Service which works around England said:


“Huge thanks to our team of peer workers, who have lived experience of hepatitis C. They help us build trust and understanding with a patient group suffering from diseases of poverty and inequality. The people we support often have multiple undiagnosed but treatable illnesses such as TB, Hepatitis C, B and HIV. Infectious diseases thrive amongst those whose lifestyles can mask the symptoms alongside problems accessing hospital based diagnostic services and completing treatments. As well as treating illness we work with partners to help people to address the underlying causes of disease.”


Professor Graham Foster, Clinical Chair of NHS England’s Hepatitis C Elimination Programme said:

“The NHS has an ambitious plan to eliminate hepatitis C from England before the global goal of 2030. To achieve this, huge amounts of hard work is being delivered by NHS staff to find at-risk people, wherever they may be, to test, treat and cure them of hepatitis C.


To go further, faster, we are delighted to introduce 10 new community outreach vans which will enable people to benefit from quick, convenient testing, near to where they live. These vans will take testing and treatment to those who need it, instead of expecting patients to travel long distances to hospital-based services. This investments marks another signal of NHS England and Improvement’s commitment to eliminate hepatitis C.”


The multidisciplinary Find & Treat team includes former patients who work as peer advocates, nurse specialists, social and outreach workers, radiographers and expert technicians and support patients to take a full course of treatment and get cured.