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Hepatitis C: nurse-led clinic treats homeless drug users who have the virus

Scheme enlists patients’ peers to encourage engagement with service 
Homeless outreach

Scheme enlists patients peers to encourage engagement with service

A nurse-led clinic is helping to treat some of the most vulnerable people living with hepatitis C in England.

The clinic uses a peer network, including former drug users, to make contact with homeless drug users; the aim is to educate, test and treat individuals who have the virus.

The service, located at Kings College Hospital, London, is part of the Follow Me peer project, run by the hospital and the Hepatitis C Trust, which began in November 2017.

Travel and support

Drug users, who had previously tested positive for hepatitis C but subsequently disengaged with services, are given vouchers to travel to the clinic and are accompanied by peers for treatment.

Patients treated for hepatitis C are given

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Scheme enlists patients’ peers to encourage engagement with service 


Homeless people may need help to access healthcare. Picture: Barbara Cook/Alamy

A nurse-led clinic is helping to treat some of the most vulnerable people living with hepatitis C in England.

The clinic uses a peer network, including former drug users, to make contact with homeless drug users; the aim is to educate, test and treat individuals who have the virus.

The service, located at King’s College Hospital, London, is part of the Follow Me peer project, run by the hospital and the Hepatitis C Trust, which began in November 2017.

Travel and support

Drug users, who had previously tested positive for hepatitis C but subsequently disengaged with services, are given vouchers to travel to the clinic and are accompanied by peers for treatment.

Patients treated for hepatitis C are given tablet-based, direct-acting antiviral treatments for 8 or 12 weeks.

Signs of success

King’s College Hospital nurse consultant in hepatology Janet Catt said of the 57 patients who have started treatment, 24 no longer have hepatitis C.

‘We have 24 patients who have had a 12-week treatment and are now cured of the virus,’ she said. ‘We are awaiting results for the rest of the patients, but it’s looking positive.

‘For any successful system or service you have to break down the barriers, and as healthcare professionals it is vital to engage the patient group in an innovative way.’

Ms Catt said the peer network had been key to reaching out to this specific patient group.

‘People may not have been engaging with services as their lives are so chaotic, but this programme has allowed peers to go out and work with them in their environment, and show them how to get treatment,’ she said.

‘The peers may have known some of the patients for a long time, and may even have used drugs with them years ago.’

Largely undiagnosed

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that predominantly infects liver cells, which can result in inflammation and significant damage.

In England, around 160,000 people are chronically infected with hepatitis C, of which 40-50% remaining undiagnosed.

Earlier this year NHS England committed to trying to eliminate the hepatitis C virus by 2025.


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