Hepatitis C eliminated in HMP Swansea: A UK first for a remand prison

HMP Swansea has eliminated hepatitis C amongst its prison population—a UK first for a remand prison.  

As of 05 September 2019 all men in prison have been tested for hepatitis C and were found to be either negative or already on treatment. This is a remarkable achievement for a prison with a very high turnover of individuals.

A rapid testing and treatment system piloted in Swansea HMP has enabled men in prison to successfully start treatment for their hepatitis C infection within a day or so of entering the prison system. This new system has been a huge success, as under the previous system offenders had to wait several weeks for test results and for treatment to be organised. As a result of this, they were often released prior to treatment starting which had negative consequences on their health and wellbeing.

The introduction of this pilot has essentially eliminated hepatitis c from this prison, which makes it the first remand prison in the UK to be hepatitis C free.

This tremendous achievement is the result of collaborative working between HMP Swansea, the Blood-bourne virus specialist teams and pharmacists at Swansea Bay University Health board, along staff from Wales Specialist Virology Centre (Public Health Wales Cardiff).

The full analysis of the pilot will now be finalised and submitted to Welsh Government for wider consideration in Wales’ fight to eliminate hepatitis C.

Louise Davies, Specialist Biomedical Scientist and National Virology Point of Care Testing Lead, said:

“It’s been great to see the benefits that rapid diagnostic testing has had on patient management and how this project has contributed to improving the quality of health services in the prison estate.

“It’s been a privilege to work on such a rewarding project and it’s been a pleasure working with the enthusiastic nursing staff at HMP, Swansea, the specialist community team and pharmacists who have been instrumental in achieving this target.

“It would be good to see this new and improved pathway implemented as a routine service in HMP Swansea and similar pathways rolled out in other prison estates and settings across Wales.”

Hepatitis C affects approximately 12,000 people in Wales. If left untreated it can be spread from one individual to another and can cause end stage liver disease and liver cancer in infected individuals.