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Alarm bells over low rates of referral for hepatitis C

Only half of patients diagnosed with hepatitis C are referred for specialist care, a new study warns. The researchers said the low referral rate was 'alarming' and in part reflected 'systems failure'.

GPs referred two-thirds of patients they tested themselves to secondary care, but appeared less good at referring on patients sent to them from other sources such as prisons and drug and alcohol units.

'We found no evidence that onward referral from primary to secondary care took place,' the researchers said. 'Our analysis suggests the reasons for these alarmingly low rates of onward referral and management are multifarious and complex, reflecting both systems failure and patient choice.'

Overall, only 49 per cent of 256 patients newly diagnosed as anti-HCV positive were referred appropriately for further management. The study, published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis in April, was carried out in Nottingham from 2000/2.

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