JOURNAL ARTICLE
MULTICENTER STUDY

Case-finding for hepatitis C in primary care: a mixed-methods service evaluation

Shivani Datta, Jeremy Horwood, Matthew Hickman, Debbie Sharp
British Journal of General Practice 2014, 64 (619): e67-74
24567619

BACKGROUND: Hepatitis C is often asymptomatic, presenting with liver failure and cancer decades after infection. People who inject drugs (PWID) and immigrant populations from countries with a moderate-to-high prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) are the main risk groups. Deaths and hospital admissions due to HCV cirrhosis tripled between 1998 and 2010, but the majority of people with chronic HCV are unaware of it.

AIM: To identify patients at risk of developing hepatitis C using routine GP data, to determine the proportion not tested, and to explore GPs' views regarding testing.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Mixed-methods service evaluation (density-based selection of PWID) in six NHS practices in Bristol.

METHOD: Patients at risk of HCV were identified. The Health Protection Agency laboratory (now part of Public Health England) provided test results. Semi-structured interviews with 17 GPs were audiorecorded and thematic analyses conducted on anonymised transcripts.

RESULTS: Of 3765 patients identified as being at risk of developing hepatitis C, 3051 (81%) had no test result, including 53% of PWID and 93% of the 'ethnicity' group. All GPs said they usually test PWID. Most GPs test for HIV and hepatitis B in immigrants more often than they test for HCV. Barriers to testing included not questioning patients about risk factors, competing priorities, the chaotic lifestyle of PWID, difficulty extracting information from computerised records, and forgetting to address HCV.

CONCLUSION: Computer prompts and GP education on whom to test are warranted. Ensuring that country of origin and drug use is included on the new-patient questionnaire might also aid case-finding for HCV.

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