Primary care staff should ensure their patients are aware of the risks of liver disease, the British Liver Trust has said.
The British Liver Trust has launched their fourth Love your Liver campaign to raise awareness of the condition and to promote support for universal liver health screening in primary care. It also highlights the importance of patient education, stating that primary care staff should discuss risk factors such as alcohol consumption, poor diet, a lack of exercise, and viral hepatitis, which cause damage to the liver.
Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: 'The British Liver Trust's Love your Liver campaign have now tested over 1500 people, and 21 per cent of those who had an ultrasound scan were found to have signs of damage. If caught at an early stage, simple lifestyle changes or treatments can be enough for the liver to recover; early screening and diagnosis are vital.'
Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, has estimated that up to 20 per cent of the population are at risk of developing liver disease in their lifetime, while research indicated that the number of cases has increased by 400 per cent since 1975.
It has been estimated that improving rates of early diagnosis could save the NHS up to £600m. In comparison, costs will rise by as much as £1b in the next 10 years if no action is taken. Mr Langford added: 'If we do nothing, we will continue to see ever increasing rates of liver damage and early death. The average age of death from liver disease is 57, over 20 years lower than deaths from cancer, stroke and heart disease – liver disease is now the third most common cause of premature death.'