We are both delighted to present the Phase II Hepatitis C Action Plan. When the first Hepatitis C Action Plan was published in September 2006, the intention at that time was to raise awareness of Hepatitis C as a significant public health issue, and to increase the evidence base around the disease and the services available in Scotland. After two years of hard work all but one of the 41 actions in the first Action Plan have been, or will shortly be, completed. A lot has been learned and, over the past six months, colleagues in NHS Health Protection Scotland and elsewhere have been working hard to develop that learning into a series of actions for the next three years. The Action Plan presented here is the product of that work.
In the foreword to the first Action Plan we acknowledged that Hepatitis C is a complex problem, that existing services would likely need to change if we wanted to tackle the disease successfully, and that investment was key. With Phase II comes major Government investment - £43 million over three years. This underpins the proposed actions which set out the ways in which the NHS and others need to change and evolve to better tackle Hepatitis C.
A significant strand of the plan is about improving testing, treatment, care and support services for those infected, with a major emphasis being placed on increasing the number of people receiving treatment. The plan also recognises and addresses the social care needs and drug addiction problems of infected persons through actions aimed at improving links between clinical, addiction and mental health services.
The importance of prevention is acknowledged through several actions, particularly those designed to reduce the sharing of needles/syringes and other injecting equipment by injecting drug users.
Our investment will also provide a step change in the monitoring and surveillance activities currently undertaken, ensuring that we can actively monitor and assess progress and success over the coming three years.
In all, the Hepatitis C Phase II Action Plan amounts to intervention on an industrial scale; an investment in the public health of Scotland that should, over the longer term, significantly reduce the problem of Hepatitis C in Scotland.
None of this would have been possible without the excellent work carried out by Professor David Goldberg and his colleagues at NHS Health Protection Scotland. Our thanks also go to the four chairs of the Working Groups established to support Phase I of the Hepatitis C Action Plan, whose hard work has contributed significantly to the development: Dr Syed Ahmed; Dr John Dillon; Mr George Howie; and Professor Avril Taylor.
With this Phase II Action Plan, Scotland is leading the way in the UK and is at the forefront of action in Europe in tackling Hepatitis C. Moreover, in this 60 th Anniversary Year of the National Health Service, this Action Plan is an example of the NHS at its best: working with its key partners to significantly improve the health of the people of Scotland.
Minister for Public Health
Chief Medical Officer