Foreword from the Chief Medical Officer for Scotland
I am pleased to present to you the Scottish Executive's first Hepatitis C Action Plan. I say, "first," because I expect it will be the first of more to come. Indeed, the current Action Plan is laying the foundation for further action beyond September 2008.
This Action Plan is the culmination of a process of consultation that has followed on from the publication of a report by the Scottish Needs Assessment Programme ( SNAP) in 2000 and the recommendations and key messages in the Consensus Statement which emerged from the Conference in the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh in 2004. The consultation has been remarkable in that the responses to it have consistently demonstrated a high degree of consensus - as well as a certain amount of urgency. Hepatitis C is a serious problem which we simply cannot afford to ignore.
However, an Action Plan to tackle Hepatitis C in Scotland must also recognise that this a complex issue. Prevention is as important and necessary as treatment and care. Awareness-raising and training are also crucial. Stakeholders have told us that, in order to meet the needs of people who have been infected with Hepatitis C, existing services may need to change the way they do things. Significant resources will be needed.
Action is clearly needed on several fronts, and these actions must be carefully co-ordinated. At the same time, the Scottish Executive needs to have a much clearer picture of what it will cost to provide high-quality treatment and care to people with Hepatitis C in the long-term.
There is no easy solution to this problem. It will require a firm commitment to co-operation and action from a large number of organisations, groups and individuals across Scotland.
My intention is that the publication of Scotland's first Action Plan on Hepatitis C will galvanise this commitment, and will provide a focus for tackling this serious public health problem.
Dr Harry Burns
Chief Medical Officer