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Government shamed over liver services neglect
from the British Liver Trust 7th May 2008
Shocking statistics released today by the British Liver Trust reveal years of neglect in protecting the public’s liver health.
They demonstrate:

• The United Kingdom lags behind the rest of the developed world and is the only developed country where liver disease deaths are still increasing
• Liver disease has climbed to be the fifth largest cause of death
• One in five people will not survive their first hospital admission for liver problems
• 38 people die from liver disease each day.

Despite being the only one of the UK’s ‘big killers’ on the increase, it is also the only one of these significant health problems with no government strategy to tackle it.

Last year the Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer asked officials to look at liver disease and commissioned an independent report from public health expert Professor Eileen Kaner. This report assembled damning evidence of the scale of the problem and put forward a wide range of suggestions for central government action. However, to date, the Government has failed to heed the advice it commissioned.

Professor Humphrey Hodgson of the Royal Free and University College School of Medicine said: “Liver disease has complex causes: genetic, autoimmune and viral, together with lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and obesity. People with liver problems also have complex health needs and therefore need access to specialist services. Patchwork action on public health and delegating the problem to GPs and local hospitals is not enough. We need a coherent national approach.”

Alison Rogers, Chief Executive of the British Liver Trust said: “Liver disease is the health crisis the Government does not want to confront. Professor Kaner’s report revealed the huge scale of the problem. There isn’t one ‘quick fix’ but a need for a national strategic approach covering both prevention and the specialist treatment patients so desperately need.

The review the Government announced was the one opportunity to take action to stem the rising toll of avoidable deaths. Patients are dying unnecessarily and losing trust in the NHS due to government indifference. The statistics we present demonstrate there are many lives at stake. It is vital an action plan is developed urgently to help the NHS and other public services tackle liver disease now.”

For further information please contact:

Sarah Matthews, Press and PR Officer
British Liver Trust, 2 Southampton Road,
Ringwood, BH24 1HY
T: 01425 481320
Mob: 07968 366526

Editor’s Note:

1. The British Liver Trust is Britain’s only national liver disease charity for adults. We work to improve the lives of people suffering from liver disease with key roles in education, support and research.

2. The Department of Health’s clinical services review team initiated a review into liver services in September 2007, to which the Trust and other stakeholders contributed. They also commissioned the report by Professor Eileen Kaner which was submitted for Ministers’ consideration in December 2007. The Kaner report and the Trust’s calls for action are available from the Trust on request.

3. DH alarm about the scale of the problem was reported in an alleged leak on 29 January 2008. However, no further developments have been reported.

4. Liver disease is one of the UK’s five ‘big killers’ and the only one on the rise. The Trust is working urgently to encourage prevention and investment in treatment and care for people with liver disease. Much of the increasing incidence of liver disease stems from lifestyle trends – relating to alcohol, obesity and viral hepatitis. However, liver disease has many other causes including genetics, abnormalities in the immune system and even the medicines we take. The Trust is working to raise awareness about the liver and combat the stigma associated with liver disease.

5. The Trust provides a comprehensive website, free medical helpline – 0800 652 7330, and distributes a wide range of information leaflets to individuals and healthcare professionals. In addition, the Trust is a contact point for support groups nationwide, as well as co-ordinating funding and providing support for research.

Liver disease: shocking statistics
• Liver disease has genetic, autoimmune, dietary and multi-system causes as well as viral, drug and alcohol causes.
• It is the fifth biggest killer in the UK and when compared to the other four it is the only one on the rise with no plan of action to tackle it.
• The UK is the only developed country where liver disease is increasing in prevalence.
• 1 in 4 people have abnormal liver function .
• The process is silent, but when liver disease has developed it presents as an acute illness with a 25-50% immediate mortality .
• In 2005 a total of 13,865 people died from liver disease and related conditions (including metabolic syndrome). This equates to an average of 38 people a day dying from liver disease
• Nearly 100 people die on the waiting list for a liver transplant every year
• In England, 39,180 people are admitted to hospital with alcoholic liver disease each year – that equates to 107 people a day and 4 people every hour
• The National Social Marketing Centre estimated that the total annual societal cost of alcohol misuse in England to be £55.1 billion
• In the UK rates were still steadily rising (APC, annual percent change, around +7% in men and +3% in women from England and Wales, and +9% in men and +7% in women from Scotland)
• Cirrhosis mortality rates increased steeply in Britain during the 1990s. Between the periods 1987–1991, and 1997–2001, cirrhosis mortality in men in Scotland more than doubled (104% increase) and in England and Wales rose by over two-thirds (69%)
• Mortality in women increased by almost half (46% in Scotland and 44% in England and Wales)
• There are now more than 325,000 people in the UK with chronic hepatitis B infection, which can lead to liver cancer and liver cirrhosis.
• The number of people living with end stage liver disease due to hepatitis C in England will increase to 2,670 a year by 2015 .

References for the British Liver Trust’s Liver disease: shocking statistics

See also Newcastle University, Professor Kaner et al
‘A rapid review of liver disease epidemiology, treatment and service provision in England’ December 2007:
available from the British Liver Trust

(Office of National Statistics. (2007) Mortality statistics 2005. London: The Stationery Office.)

National Plan for Liver Services UK. Specialised Services for Hepatology and Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary (HPB) Surgery. May 2004

(Office of National Statistics. (2007) Mortality statistics 2005. London: The Stationery Office.)

(Office of National Statistics. (2007) Mortality statistics 2005. London: The Stationery Office.)

UK Transplant (2007) Transplant activity in the UK NHS. 2007

(The Information Centre (2007) Statistics on alcohol: England 2007. Leeds: The Information Centre)

(BMA: Alcohol misuse: tackling the UK epidemic. February 2008. P.45)

(Journal of Hepatology (2007) Worldwide mortality from cirrhosis: An update to 2002)

(Leon DA & McCambridge J (2006) Liver cirrhosis mortality rates in Britain from 1950 to 2002: an analysis of routine data. Lancet 367: 52-6.)

(Leon DA & McCambridge J (2006) Liver cirrhosis mortality rates in Britain from 1950 to 2002: an analysis of routine data. Lancet 367: 52-6.)

Hepatitis B Foundation UK (2007) Rising Curve: Chronic Hepatitis B Infection in the UK)

Health Protection Agency (2006) Hepatitis C in England. London: Health Protection Agency.