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Alright My Liver, but how is yours? 3,000 people in the South West know thanks to lifesaving screenings

Last updated: 30/10/2023

Nurse Sally Tilden carrying out a liver screening on a patient lying on a bed in the Alright My Liver screening van

3,000 people across the South West have received potentially lifesaving liver screenings thanks to a University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) liver scheme.

‘Alright My Liver’ is a community NHS screening service for people across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, led by Bristol and Severn Hepatitis C Operational Delivery Network in collaboration with UHBW and Southwest Cancer Alliance Group (SWAG).

Since the pilot launched in July 2022, over 200 people screened have been invited to a follow up appointment in a specialist clinic for an assessment, vital advice or treatment.

Helen Coombs received a liver screening in November 2022 at a drop-in event in Easton. She was referred onto the Hepatology team at Bristol Royal Infirmary and diagnosed with liver disease.

Thankfully, she caught it early due to the ‘Alright My Liver’ screening. The UHBW team supported her to make healthy lifestyle changes to improve her health and help maintain the condition of her liver. Helen said:

“I was surprised. The doctors and nurses explained my diagnosis really well. I’m now trying to eat more healthy and keep up the swimming. I would advise anyone who was worried about their liver health or at risk to get a scan and seek advice.”

The main causes of liver disease are type 2 diabetes, obesity, viral hepatitis and alcohol excess. Liver disease increases the risk of various complications including liver cancer.

Over 6,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with a primary liver cancer each year. This number has increased by 50% over the past decade and is expected to continue rising.

The main risk factor for liver cancer is cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, which can often go undiagnosed for many years before symptoms develop.

Liver cirrhosis is now a leading cause of death in the UK of 35–49-year-olds. 75% are first diagnosed when they are admitted to hospital with an emergency. During this admission, 1 in 6 people will die.

A FibroScan is a quick, non-invasive scan which can rule out or indicate liver cirrhosis. Patients are usually in and out of appointments within 15 minutes.

Jane Gitahi, UHBW’s Community Matron and Bristol and Severn ODN Lead Nurse said:

“Liver disease causes 10,000 deaths in the UK, every year. However, most members of the public have no idea they are at risk of liver disease, or cancer.

“People with liver disease tend to show symptoms when a liver is already damaged and scarred, which can lead to serious and possibly life threatening complications.

“Liver screening helps us detect any issues in early stages. An Initial FibroScan is an instant, painless measure of liver stiffness. Your screening appointment takes 5-15 minutes in total and if we find a problem, we will assess you in clinic.”

The Alright My Liver? team carry out a combination of drop in or GP organised sessions based in places all around the region, including GPs, community centres and drug clinics. 

The ‘Alright My Liver?’ team held a voluntary drop in screening event set up by the Robins Foundation for attendees of the Bristol City vs. Coventry match at Ashton Gate, on 21 October (2023). They carried out 18 liver screening scans and spread awareness around causes of liver disease and the support available locally.

UHBW screening event inside Ashton Gate forecourt before a Bristol City football match

You can find out more about the screenings on the Alright My Liver? website.

The team are delighted to report that NHSE has agreed to extend the project until 2024, and therefore there will be plans in place to carry out the 1-year repeat FibroScans for people screened by the service and found to have ARLD fibrosis. This will also be planned for patients screened this year, which will be made clear in the results letters going forward.