Daily Archives: 11/12/2014

Early detection of liver disease by GPs ‘non-existent’

In yesterday’s post I talked about a report commissioned by The Lancet to look at liver disease in the UK.  It’s launch was picked up by the media with the BBC reporting on it.

Their coverage included these statements:

A group of doctors and researchers have criticised a reliance on “outdated” blood tests for diagnosis – saying these sometimes give false reassurance.  The report says picking up cases earlier leads to better outcomes for patients.

Prof Roger Williams, who led the research and is the director of the Institute of Hepatology in London, said: “The rising rates of mortality from liver disease over the past three decades are a terrible reflection on the UK.  Deaths will continue to rise until there are radical improvements in treatment services.”

“And early detection of liver disease by GPs and primary care services is virtually non-existent.  GPs know very little about it and don’t particularly want to get involved.  The ordinary test for liver function often shows as normal – even when someone has cirrhosis.”

The report says GPs rely on blood tests that show inflammation to the liver, which can fluctuate, rather than having access to scanners, which give a more consistent picture of scarring.

Another member of the team, Dr Nick Sheron, who runs the liver unit at Southampton General Hospital, said: “GPs don’t have access to the right technology.  They are using blood tests which simply don’t work. It’s 19th Century technology for a 21st Century problem.”

Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, who co-founded the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “Getting people to reduce their drinking works and is really cost-effective.

“But our politicians will not take this seriously.

“Alcohol dependency is treated as a lifestyle choice – like a designer brand of jeans – rather than as a disease.”

You can read the full story here