The Nottingham BRC’s Scarred Liver Project team, which works in partnership with the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network, have developed an innovative method to diagnose chronic liver disease at an early but critical stage, often when there are no apparent symptoms.
The project is one of the first in the UK aiming to increase diagnosis in GP surgeries. The Scarred Liver team has developed this pathway (the route a patient takes from diagnosis to treatment) targeting patients based on their risk factors and offers them a non-invasive test called a Fibroscan®.
Initial studies in Nottingham showed an increased detection of significant liver disease, high patient satisfaction and cost effectiveness. This diagnosis is now available at more than 100 GP practices across four Clinical Commissioning Groups (the local organisations responsible for planning and funding NHS care) serving a population of approximately 700,000 people.
“The interesting aspect of the pathway is that we have targeted patients who have risk factors who may not know they already have liver disease, as they have no symptoms. Many of the tests GPs often use to detect liver disease come out as normal so they would not have been diagnosed in the usual circumstances,” said Dr Neil Guha, Clinical Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham and NHS innovation accelerator fellow.
The project was previously a winner in the Improved Diagnostic Investigation category of the NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes, which set out to identify and spread innovative ideas from frontline NHS staff.
Mary, one of the patients involved in the Scarred Liver Project said:
“Apparently, the liver heals itself. It probably won’t get any better but it won’t get any worse. If I don’t go back on alcohol, it will be fine.”
Malcolm, another patient, said of his diagnosis: “I’m a teetotaller so it (liver disease) was the last thing I thought I would ever get, until it was explained to me about fatty liver disease.”
Nottingham is leading the way on developing new diagnosis methods and treatments for liver disease.