Pharmacists on the Isle of Wight have been commissioned to test patients at risk of Hepatitis C following the launch of a new treatment service on the island.

For the first time patients living with the virus can access services at St Mary’s Hospital rather than traveling to the mainland to receive care.

To assist the service, pharmacies across the island are now offering ‘finger prick’ tests for Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV with specialist nurses visiting the premises to discuss results.

The partnership between pharmacy and secondary care is hoped to free-up GP time and is fully supported by local GPs and pharmacists.

Hepatology research fellow Dr Ryan Buchanan was involved with the investigation that led to the new service being offered locally.

The findings revealed that more patients living with Hepatitis C on the Isle of Wight had liver scarring than patients living on the mainland in Southampton, and just 30% ever received treatment.

“It was therefore imperative that a treatment service was established on the Island to treat those patients most at risk of liver failure and liver cancer as a result of their Hepatitis C infection,” he said.

“We are excited about the new service and the outcomes we are beginning to see and we will continue develop and expand the service to provide drugs directly from community pharmacies in the near future.”

In addition to the finger prick tests, pharmacists are able to instantly engage patients who test positive via an automated referral system using PharmOutcomes software.

Patients then receive treatment from local heptology services, led by Dr Leonie Grellier.

Dr Grellier said: "Offering a service on the island has already increased the numbers of patients accessing care and treatment over the past six months in a way that has not been seen here before.”

Hepatitis C often doesn't have any noticeable symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged.

This means many people have the infection without realising it.

The only way to know for certain if these symptoms are caused by hepatitis C is to get tested.