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HEPATITIS SUFFERERS URGED TO GET FLU JAB THIS WINTER PODCAST
People with Viral Hepatitis across Scotland are being urged to come forward and receive a free seasonal flu jab as a simple and effective way to protect against the flu this winter. The flu doesn’t just mean a couple of days in bed – there is potential to cause extremely serious complications if you have an underlying health condition such as Hepatitis C.
Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, said,” If you have a long-term medical condition, the best way to protect yourself is to get the jab. It only takes a minute to get the flu jab, but this will protect you for around 12 months.”
Last year’s vaccine may not protect against this year’s viruses so it is important to get yearly jabs. The jab itself is quick, easy and safe. The vaccine works by helping your body to identify and fight the virus so if you do feel achy for a day or so after getting the jab, this can be a good sign that the vaccination is working and that your immune system is responding. It is still effective even if currently receiving hepatitis treatment.
Getting the vaccination could save weeks of misery or worse. Free vaccinations for those at risk are accessed through local GPs.
For further information on the seasonal flu campaign See: Immunisation Scotland
Members of North Glasgow Community Drama Group, who have been affected by hepatitis C, gave a fantastic performance of their play C- You, C-Me Hep-C at Partick Burgh Halls, Glasgow, during GRAND (Getting Real on Alcohol aNd Drugs) week.
The play, which was written, performed and produced by members of the group, gave an insight into many of the issues faced by individuals and families in relation to hepatitis C. Remarkably the performance not only managed to explore how hepatitis C impacts on people’s lives but did so in a way that was informative, educational, challenging and side-splittingly funny.
The drama revolved around a support group sharing their individual experiences with a new member who is attending the group for the first time.
Firstly a pregnant woman, who contracted HCV following a blood transfusion in childhood, shares her experience. Next a Falklands war veteran, partial to the occasional drink, recounts his story of contracting HCV through unsterile tattooing practices. The spotlight then turns to a young woman who describes being under the influence of alcohol at a “melinotan party”. Finally an ex-injector previously involved in risky practices wrestles with, and finally overcomes, his fear and apprehension of taking a blood test through the support of his peers and support workers. The interaction with his Puerto Rican nurse, Juan, left the audience in tears of laughter.
The solemn subject matter was relieved throughout with fantastic Glasgow humour, great musical performances and heartfelt original poetry.
The drama hit the spot in highlighting how stigma, isolation, fear and ignorance make an already challenging situation even more difficult to deal with. However the overall theme of the play has a more positive message – it demonstrates how services, service users and staff can work together to challenge stigma, educate and inform, and ultimately motivate and support all those affected by viral hepatitis.
Contributors to the production included North West Community Addiction Team, C-Level, 2nd Chance, Phoenix Futures, Addaction, and North Glasgow College. The cross sector working gave real value to the participants and was a striking example of the value of cooperation.
Funding was provided by GRAND, Public Health NHS and North Addiction Forum.
Every month the Hepatitis Scotland eBulletin will turn the spotlight on local service providers or staff and highlight how they are currently dealing with local challenges. This series will attempt to highlight the positive things going on across Scotland but also highlight important local practice initiatives. Hopefully this can pass on some useful ideas from those who have “been there, done that, earned the t-shirt”.
“It’s about giving,.... recognising that everybody has the ability to support”
Dave Barry, C Clear, Peer education project, Fife
Within the health field, user involvement continues to find a larger place in the thoughts, and evidence base, of those who deliver (or pay for!) the services. Although this is a key need for true evidence based medicine, the way user involvement has been developed continues to vary in quality and has not always been for the better. Today’s spotlight focuses on a Fife-based service that engages local people affected by Hepatitis C and involves them in their own care and support.
Dave Barrie, the senior support worker for the project, was born, lives and works in Fife. He feels that most people enjoy thinking about others and if you can sustain people in that mindset they stop thinking so much about their own baggage.
C-Clear Fife has only been running the last 18 months but it’s inclusive style, with group membership not just restricted to those who currently have Hep C, means that the door is then open to all those who have been at risk. . The project runs weekly support groups that meet for two hours in Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Methil and Kirkcaldy. Each group is supported by Peer Educators/Mentors, most of whom are currently on treatment for hepatitis C. Some of the Peer Mentors are doing 1 to 1 buddy work and supporting those going through treatment. The groups are proving to be positive places to meet where members support one another and mix with like minded people who are trying to move on with their lives. Dave feels this helps everyone to become an expert and, with knowledge being power in this information age, the group empowers its members in many different ways.
"Too many people who have the virus believe that there is no treatment; they think that nothing can be done about it. I want to change that."
Ally, Peer Educator Kirkcaldy Group
The groups are well attended and sometimes family members also come along to find out more about the treatment so they can support their relatives. The group members are putting the word out into their local communities, supporting safer drug use, passing on accurate information on testing and treatment and how to access services. They have also been involved in hepatitis C input at local colleges, going into homeless hostels, building links with prisons and engaging with a range of groups and services around Fife. An innovation Dave wants to develop is the use of dried blood spot testing, with potentially mentors being trained in how to administer the test.
Although there are some basic ground rules each group is increasingly led by its members as it evolves. The group at Methil are now accessing the community centre facilities more, developing computer and their table tennis skills. There is a strong element of peer education and mentorship, with new members often bringing a reinforcing effect to the older group member’s new knowledge and skills. Some of the Peer Mentors are doing 1 to 1 buddy work and supporting people through what can be difficult times. The groups are proving to be positive places to meet where members support one another and mix with like minded people who are trying to move on with their lives.
It is with regret that Hepatitis Scotland announce that Patricia Brown has resigned from her post as National Patient Involvement Officer. Patricia will be sorely missed, not only by the team here at Hepatitis Scotland but also by many of those whom she has had contact with in the field. Colleagues who have seen Patricia speak so pertinently at events, and those who observed her interactions with patient groups, have expressed disappointment that Patricia has moved on but have also expressed their gratitude for her work in advocating for and assisting those with Hepatitis C, both at a national and interpersonal level.
Hepatitis Scotland will advertise the resultant vacancy in the very near future.
The successful conference from June has now been fully reported on. Please click the link to get a full overview of the various talks on the day. Report
In this article we look at training Hepatitis Scotland is providing to support services for vulnerable young people and explore the important role that diverse sectors such as housing and homelessness, employability, criminal justice, and youth services can play in tackling viral hepatitis. This is the start of a series of articles outlining the training and capacity building issues services may need to respond to.
Early intervention with young people who inject drugs is crucial if we are to minimise a wide range of potential harms, including exposure to blood borne viruses such as Hepatitis B & C.
Young people in contact with agencies have often experienced a range of challenges such as past personal trauma, homelessness, multiple drug use/alcohol use, family breakdown and other common indicators often linked to the development of problematic drug use. These marginalised young people may be unwilling to link in with specialist drug services at this stage. They may feel they don’t need the help of specialist services. Stigma, fear of authorities, lack of knowledge of services, concerns related to criminality - these and other factors can obstruct or delay the process of engagement.
Consequently attitudes, knowledge and behaviours are not learned from appropriate sources but are informed, or perhaps misinformed, through their own peer networks leading to the internalisation and perpetuation of myths, risky practices, and behaviours. These risks can be particularly acute in relation to viral hepatitis as the risk of exposure at the outset of injecting drug use can be significantly high.
Given these circumstances a wide range of non specialist support services already in contact with these vulnerable young people may be best placed to identify, engage, and take a role in raising awareness of viral hepatitis. As well as having access, workers in these support services may also have the additional benefit of established relationships, rapport, and skills which can be utilised to engage with this hard to reach group.
To support and develop the role of these services Hepatitis Scotland provides training at no cost which covers key areas including
In summary, a range of services for vulnerable young people are uniquely placed to engage with those at risk of involvement in problematic drug use. This opportunity for engagement occurs at a critical time when young people may be moving towards, or are in the early stages of, injecting drug use with consequent risk of exposure viral hepatitis. Provision of basic training to this workforce can provide them with the competence and confidence to provide relevant information and advice to young vulnerable people at this crucial transitional stage.
For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Healthcare Improvement Scotland provides assurance to patients and the public about the safety and quality of healthcare services in Scotland. Currently, they need to measure aspects of Hepatitis services to see whether the standard of care is acceptable and equal across Scotland. They are consulting nationally to agree on a set of key indcators that can properly measure how services are delivering care and need the views of those who have used services to better inform the indicators. Please click this link to find out more.