Saturday 28 July 2018
World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes place every year on 28 July, bringing the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. Around 50% of people who have ever injected drugs have hepatitis C and most new cases are as a result of using contaminated injecting equipment. Linda, a specialist nurse who helps people with hepatitis in Medway and Swale, shares how she’s helping clients at our community substance misuse service at Swale in East Kent.
“I’m responsible for helping people who have hepatitis but are less likely to come into treatment. One of the outreach centres I work from is Forward’s Hub in Swale, based in Sittingbourne, where I visit every Thursday.
My role covers a whole range of things – everything from education and awareness about the causes of hepatitis, right through to testing and treatment. It’s a nurse-led service, so clients don’t have to see a whole range of different medical professionals, just me. This can be less intimidating for them than going to their GP or hospital and I get to build a real rapport with service users.
A lot of people that come in don’t realise that you can treat viral hepatitis, or they are put off by fears about side effects, which the old treatment used to have a lot of. One of my jobs is to let them know that there’s a new, simpler treatment that can be taken orally. It cures around 97% of patients and has minimal side effects.
It’s a very person-centred treatment approach. I’m with them right from the first session through to the very end and clients have my contact details so they can get in touch if they have any queries or concerns. Treatment lasts between eight and sixteen weeks. I then check their bloods a further three months after they complete their course of medication.
One of the loveliest parts of my job is getting to call clients to tell them they’re cured. Some of them don’t believe it’s really true – that taking a tablet once a day can completely eradicate a disease they thought they’d have to live with forever. It gives people real hope for their future - I’ve had clients cry with relief and happiness when I tell them the good news. For some people, it can be the change that needs to happen for them to commit to positive steps such as stopping drinking altogether. One client who has completed treatment has become so much more confident since finishing treatment, he’s started volunteering, something he would never have done before.
Around 216,000 people in the UK have chronic hepatitis C. If everyone knew how easy and effective the new treatment was, we’d be able to make a real difference to that figure. That’s why my job is so important, and why I’m glad to be able to play my part in helping make a positive change.”
About Forward’s East Kent service
We support anyone who lives in East Kent and has problems with drugs or alcohol. If you are worried about anyone, including yourself, and want to get help, please call us on 0300 123 1186 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.