Patients at a city hospital will be screened for Hepatitis C when having routine blood tests.

Those over 16 years old attending A&E at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton will be screened for the virus unless they opt out.

It is part of an NHS drive to end new Hepatitis C infections ahead of global targets and has already been implemented in several other NHS trusts.

It follows the roll-out of routine HIV testing, which was introduced at the hospital’s emergency department in April last year.

Duncan Cresswell, the clinical networks manager for Hepatitis C and vascular at the University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are very pleased to add Hepatitis C to our bloodborne virus screening for emergency care patients at the Royal Sussex County Hospital.

“Hepatitis C is now curable with a simple short course of tablets. Following treatment, people cannot pass the virus on.

“If left untreated, however, Hepatitis C can cause serious liver damage and cancer, so early diagnosis and treatment is incredibly important and now more valuable than ever.

“The hospital’s emergency department represents a fantastic opportunity to help find undiagnosed and untreated patients and provide them with the support they need to successfully complete treatment.”

Bloodborne viruses (BBV), such as Hepatitis C and HIV, are relatively common and can affect anyone. The earlier people find out if they are infected, the better the chance of a long and healthy life and no further onward transmission.

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Zoe Yates, peer programme manager for Sussex from The Hepatitis C Trust, said: “This will provide us with an important opportunity to help identify people who may be unknowingly living with Hepatitis C and fast-track them into treatment.

“It will also provide us with a platform to re-engage patients who may know they have an active Hepatitis C, but who have been lost to follow up and not completed treatment.”

Patients can choose to opt-out of being screened for HIV or Hepatitis C by speaking to the clinician in the emergency department.

People will be contacted within two weeks if their test suggests they are living with HIV or Hepatitis C.