Hepatitis C ‘micro-eliminated’ at UK’s largest prison

The test-and-treat programme is part of a plan from Welsh government to micro-eliminate hepatitis C in the community and in all Welsh prisons.
Man having blood test

Prescribing pharmacists have been part of the healthcare team that has led to hepatitis C being ‘micro-eliminated’ from HMP Berwyn, the UK’s largest prison, following an 18-month test-and-treat programme.

The joint initiative between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB), Public Health Wales and the Hepatitis C Trust was launched at the prison near Wrexham, Wales, in October 2022.  

According to data from the Hepatitis C Trust, people in prison are at least three times more likely to be living with the blood borne virus hepatitis C than people who live in the community.

The initiative at HMP Berwyn achieved the Welsh government’s target, published in January 2023, for prisons to achieve and sustain micro-elimination of hepatitis C by March 2024.

Micro-elimination is defined as 100% of prisoners being offered a test, 90% of prisoners accepting the test and 90% of those diagnosed with hepatitis C starting treatment. HMP Berwyn has a capacity of 2,100 prisoners.

The project team at HMP Berwyn was made up of prescribing pharmacists, a blood borne virus nurse, volunteers from the Hepatitis C Trust and prisoners.

Elizabeth Hurry, prescribing pharmacist at BCUHB, said that the health board was “very proud” to announce the micro-elimination of hepatitis C within HMP Berwyn.

“The team has worked tirelessly over the past few years educating to raise awareness and reduce stigma, testing and treating using a streamlined pathway,” she said.

Louise Davies, national infectious disease point-of-care testing lead at Public Health Wales, said: “Achieving this accomplishment in HMP Berwyn has been a complete multidisciplinary team effort and work will continue to maintain the micro-elimination status going forward so that the prison continues to meet the targets set by the Welsh government.”

The rapid test-and-treat programme is part of an action plan from Welsh government to micro-eliminate hepatitis C in the community and in all Welsh prisons.

Commenting on the programme, Geraldine McCaffrey, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Welsh Pharmacy Board, said: “We know that the skills of pharmacy teams in community pharmacies and secondary care play an important role in multidisciplinary team approaches to identify and treat blood borne viruses.

“Working in a prison environment of course presents unique challenges, which makes this a great achievement by the team at HMP Berwyn.”

A rapid hepatitis C test-and-treat programme was first introduced in BCUHB in community clinics in 2019.

This became an outreach project which has helped more than 170 people in North Wales, including those experiencing homelessness, to get treated for hepatitis C.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, April 2024, Vol 312, No 7984;312(7984)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.308169

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