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On World Hepatitis Day, 28 July 2021, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) launched a volunteer and peer mentoring programme to help support people who are at risk of having Hepatitis C to get tested, treated and cured.
The programme will be led by Achieve, GMMH’s Addictions Services, which operate across Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford; and supported by the Addictions Provider Alliance, an alliance of NHS addictions service providers from across the UK.
Hep C peer mentors and volunteers will use their experiences to educate at-risk people about Hep C and empower them to make an informed choice about testing and treatment. They will offer a mixture of one-to-one support and group-based workshops.
The volunteer and peer mentor programme is part of GMMH’s Hep C micro-elimination strategy. Micro-elimination is an approach to tackling Hep C, which focuses on supporting particular groups of people who are more at risk from Hep C, such as drug users. This means treatment and prevention support can be tailored to the specific needs of these groups.
The aim is to support as many people as possible under GMMH’s Addictions Services in Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford to get tested for Hep C, and for those who test positive to get treated and get cured.
Through the Hep C micro-elimination strategy, all Achieve Addictions Service staff are also being trained to test for blood-borne viruses using dry blood spot test kits to extend testing opportunities across all service user groups, and processes for self-testing of service users in some cases are also being developed. Strong links with acute Trusts who provide hepatitis treatment clinics across Bolton, Bury, Salford and Trafford will ensure those who test positive are referred to treatment.
Jonathan Miller, Achieve Service Manager, said; “We are so pleased to launch our volunteer and peer mentoring programme. We are a proud member of the APA, and are delighted to have received funding from them to implement a Project Lead, who will recruit, train and provide ongoing support to our volunteers and peer mentors.
“In recent years, there has been significant advancement in treatment for hepatitis C, with the side effects of treatment now greatly reduced, and cure rates of 95%.
“Through providing tailored practical and emotional support to our service users, we hope to significantly increase the numbers of at-risk individuals who are tested for hepatitis, with those who test positive moving on to treatment and, ultimately, getting cured as a result.”