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Important update from the BSG VP Hepatology and the BASL and BSG Presidents
During the COVID-19 outbreak the NHS is doing everything it can to keep patients with liver disease safe. However, risks relate not just to the infection itself, but also to the significant disruption of routine care due to the pandemic. Information from China and Italy suggest that hospital admissions for non-COVID-19 illness can lead to further spread of infection. Changes in routine care are now required to keep vulnerable patients with liver disease out of hospital as much as possible. However, changes to the way care is delivered for patients with liver disease must be balanced against the risks of undertreating them.
‘Social distancing’ and ‘self-isolation’ are measures to reduce spread within a population and to protect high risk groups. The impact of immunosuppression on the severity of COVID-19 disease remains unclear. Factors associated with more severe disease are older age and presence of other medical conditions. These are also an understandable source of anxiety for patients with liver disease. Government guidance in this area is dynamic and all people in the UK should follow up to date recommendations from the government.
The government recommends social distancing for all in the UK, but this guidance defines a ‘high-risk’ group of patients with liver disease who are advised to take additional measures and go into self-isolation for 12 weeks.
Patients with liver disease in high risk group*:
`Shielded group` Advise mandatory self – isolation:
1) Patients having undergone liver transplantation and taking immunosuppression and
2) Patients with autoimmune hepatitis taking immunosuppression
The consensus view in our specialty acknowledges the higher risk for patients with decompensated cirrhosis, who are not included in the shielding cohort. We recommend that these patients with decompensated cirrhosis should be advised to adhere strictly to social distancing measures in order to protect themselves. Clinicians will not, however, have to identify this group to their GPs for coding as COVID at RISK.
*There may be others not in the above groups felt by the treating physician to also be at higher risk and these should be assessed on a case-case basis.
As a community responding to the COVID-19, you would have had a number of messages from within and outside the institutions that you work in regarding this issue. We should recognise and acknowledge there is uncertainty regarding the impact of this on individuals and groups. Accordingly, locally and nationally balanced judgements will inform regular guidance and advice. BASL has worked together with organisations that share common interest in our patients and services to provide information and advice based in the current context.
Please see news items to follow for guidance for healthcare professionals in Gastroenterology and Hepatology and for guidance to patients with a liver transplant and chronic liver disease.
Professor Guruprasad Aithal
• All healthcare professionals have a responsibility to safeguard patients, colleagues and themselves from the COVID 19 virus.
• We wish to emphasise the importance of following current guidance and advice from Public Health England, Health Protection Scotland, Public Health Wales and Public Health Agency Northern Ireland.
• You will find any updates to this document on the BSG website.
Potential Impact on Gastroenterology and Hepatology Services
• Based on developments over the last few days, it is likely that the NHS will have to manage increasing numbers of patients with COVID 19. There is a shared understanding that if COVID 19 becomes a significant epidemic in the UK, clinical services will be stretched and that this will be exacerbated by staff shortages due to sickness, imposed isolation and caring responsibilities.
• It is likely that there will be increasing requirements for healthcare professionals in gastroenterology and hepatology to support NHS Healthcare providers in managing the care of acutely ill patients. This will likely result in disruption or cancellation of clinics and endoscopy lists and other specialist activities.
Redeployment of Staff to Managing Acutely Unwell Patients
• In the event of a significant outbreak, healthcare professionals in gastroenterology and hepatology will be asked to support broader patient and population needs.
• It is important that these activities are considered in the context of patient safety. Healthcare professionals should not undertake any activity beyond their level of competence.
• Healthcare professionals should avail themselves of training opportunities to equip them to undertake specific tasks in looking after acutely unwell patients either with suspected or confirmed COVID 19 infection.
Advice for patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease on immunosuppression
• The following advice is from Public Health England and is well summarised by Crohn’s and Colitis UK and the International Organisation for IBD (IOIBD).
• People taking immunosuppressants for their Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis are not at increased risk of catching novel coronavirus, however they may be at extra risk of complications from the virus if they are infected.
• People on immunosuppressants should seek advice by telephone if they develop symptoms of either seasonal Influenza or novel coronavirus.
• For the majority of patients, it is advisable to continue with immunosuppressive treatment and other treatments for their inflammatory bowel disease.
• Patients are advised to take precautions to avoid infection through good personal hygiene and avoiding unnecessary close contact with people who are unwell.
• If patients stop taking immunosuppressive medicine, they may have a flare which will increase the risk of complications if infected with coronavirus.
• If patients still have concerns about continuing the medication, they should speak to the medical team.
• If patients are at an increased risk of infection, for example, if they have been in direct contact with an infected individual, have travelled to a high infectivity area, or have another serious comorbidity that increases the risk further, they should seek advice from their medical team by telephone before making any changes to their medication.
Telephone and Virtual Clinics
• In order to maintain social distancing and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, we encourage telephone consultations with patients or virtual clinics to avoid patients having to attend the clinic in person.
• We suggest that in such circumstances, a clause is added to the clinics letter that the patient has not been examined and that part of the assessment is therefore limited but has been only omitted due to exceptional circumstances.
• Good IT support is necessary to support telephone or virtual clinics, for example use of Skype.
• Acute services can be helped by reducing acute admissions where possible by setting up alternative routes of care as in the case of day-case unit paracenteses services to prevent emergency admissions for paracentesis (these can be about 100/100,000 population).
• Patients suitable for telephone and virtual clinics include those with stable cirrhosis and those long-term after transplant.
• Patients post-transplant, those with AIH on second line immunosuppression, and those with decompensated cirrhosis and/or alcoholic hepatitis patients are considered high risk for COVID 19.
• Patients with compensated cirrhosis are considered to be in the intermediate risk group for COVID 19.
Advice for Patients with Liver, or Small Bowel Transplants
• We recommend that healthcare professionals looking after such patients refer to the guidance from the British Transplantation Society.
Endoscopy and COVID19
• Endoscopy Teams are advised to follow both national guidance for reducing transmission of infection with COVID19 (websites above) but also agree their own local protocols and policies in collaboration with senior management, Infectious Disease or Infection Control teams. There are both general measure that should be followed and specific measures around personal protective equipment (PPE).
• General measures include checking patient’s travel history at admission, providing a COVID19 information sheet about symptoms to report and checking patients temperatures upon arrival. Where there is concern, elective procedures should be postponed and rebooked as soon as possible once the patient no longer poses a risk. Units should develop standard operating procedures (SOP) for COVID19 control measures and share these widely among staff groups.
• PPE for endoscopy procedures – advice is that standard infection control measures should be followed except for aerosol generating procedures (AGP) in patients at high risk of or with confirmed COVID19 infection. AGP in this context means upper GI procedures and for patients who fall into this category, enhanced PPE is recommended including FFP3 masks. Endoscopy teams should also consider enhanced PPE for emergency and out-of-hours procedures and also consider arrangements for the most appropriate location to perform these within their hospital. Units are encouraged to ensure staff know how to be fitted for the appropriate size of FFP3 mask and how to put on PPE correctly.
• Official advice is that enhanced PPE is not currently felt to be necessary for upper endoscopy in patients at low risk or for lower GI procedures. Concerns have been raised that the virus may be faecally transmitted but there is presently insufficient evidence to recommend the use of enhanced PPE measures for lower GI procedures. Stocks of FFP3 masks are also limited and their use needs to be carefully prioritised. This is, however, a rapidly changing situation and teams should check regularly for updates to both local and national guidance
• Units should discuss locally and consider whether or not to suspend some endoscopic activity e.g. low-risk surveillance scopes (non-dysplastic Barrett’s, polyp follow-up, IBD etc) for a period to help reduce or delay virus spread but also as it is likely there will be staff shortages through illness, absence to care for others or redeployment.
Individual hospital trusts and health boards will be looking to implement local guidance based on national and international best practice. For reasons mentioned above, we encourage telephone or virtual clinics. This guidance aligns with the current data available but as the situation changes further guidance may be required. Individual treatment decisions about patient care will be between the patient and the treating physician.
Dr Tony Tham
Clinical Services & Standards Committee Chair
Liver Transplantation and COVID-19
We know that a lot of the information about COVID-19 for the general public may not answer the concerns of people with a liver transplant. So far, experience from other countries have not shown that immunosuppressed patients are at increased risk of severe lung infection. However, it is important that you take all precautions to reduce your risk of exposure to the virus.
Reducing the exposure:
Like the common cold, COVID-19 infection usually occurs through close contact with a person with the virus, via cough, sneezes or hand contact. Washing your hands frequently reduces the contamination risk. The benefits of using masks in public is unclear even for transplant recipients and wearing a mask on its own may not prevent infection. Most masks are not tightfitting so aerosols can get through, but they may prevent you touching your nose and mouth.
To reduce your visit to hospitals and GP surgeries, doctors are looking at clinic lists to see if you could have a telephone consultation instead. You will be notified if there are any changes to your hospital appointments. We would recommend the following measures to try to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19 as much as possible until the pandemic is over;
Please do not stop any treatment for your liver transplant (especially your immunosuppression) without discussing this with your consultant or a member of their team first.
We want to reassure you that doctors & nurses are doing all they can to ensure that they can continue your care & treatment safely. If you have specific questions about your treatment or hospital appointments please get in touch with your local team.
If you think you might have been exposed to the virus, you should follow the same instructions as those for the general public & phone NHS 111.
Make sure you tell the person you speak to about your liver transplant & treatment. If on immunosuppression or chemotherapy you should also phone your normal liver and chemotherapy team so they are aware.
For the latest NHS information: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/common-questions/ .
These guidelines on Transjugular Intrahepatic Portosystemic Stent-Shunt (TIPSS) in the management of portal hypertension have been commissioned by the Clinical Services and Standards Committee (CSSC) of the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) under the auspices of the Liver Section of the BSG. The guidelines are new and have been produced in collaboration with the British Society of Interventional Radiology (BSIR) and British Association for the Study of the Liver (BASL). The guidelines development group (GDG) comprises elected members of the BSG Liver Section, representation from British Association for the Study of the Liver (BASL), a nursing representative, and two patient representatives. The quality of evidence and grading of recommendations was appraised using the GRADE system.
These guidelines are aimed at health care professionals considering referring a patient for a TIPSS. They comprise the following subheadings: (1) indications; (2) patient selection; (3) procedural details; (4) complications; and (5) research agenda. They are not designed to address: (1) the management of the underlying liver disease; (2) the role of TIPSS in children; or (3) complex technical and procedural aspects of TIPSS.
The 2020 ACCEA round opens on Friday 13th March 2020 and closes at 17:00 on Thursday 7th May 2020.
DEADLINE for applying for BASL support is 09:00 WEDNESDAY 8th APRIL 2020.
BASL will need to have completed the process of selecting those applicants who will receive our support well before the ACCEA deadline date.
If you wish to be considered for a national award in the 2020 round and seek BASL support, you should submit a copy of your ACCEA Application Form, along with any other supplementary CVQs; Research & Innovation (Form D), Teaching & Training (Form E), Leadership & Management (Form F).
Applications should be sent to the BASL Secretariat to Judy Hawksworth at firstname.lastname@example.org .
When submitting your application to BASL, please provide the name of an individual who has agreed to write your supporting citation. Please note: we will need to request a citation for every applicant even if the member is not successful in gaining BASL support, in order to meet the tight deadlines imposed by the ACCEA.
ACCEA regard the citations provided by BASL as important: they give added value to the process. The citation helps clarify information in the application and can put an individual's contribution into the wider context.
As in previous years BASL are able to support colleagues (BASL members) directly by nomination for national Gold, Silver and Bronze awards. As a specialist society, BASL cannot make nominations for Platinum awards; this must be done through the applicant’s University/Research Body and Universities UK. BASL can however provide a citation to support an application for a Platinum award.
How to apply for BASL support:
1. Send a copy of your completed ACCEA Application Form and other supplementary CVQs to the BASL Secretariat to email@example.com . BASL also requires a short piece on your work with BASL and why you feel you should be supported by them.
Deadline to submit your application to BASL is 09:00 WEDNESDAY 8th APRIL 2020.
All applications are completed through the ACCEA on line system. Downloadable copies of the application form and CVQ’s will be on the ACCEA website from 20th February 2020 and are intended to help those who wish to work on their application offline before completing online.
2. When submitting your application to BASL, please provide the name and email address of an individual who has agreed to write your supporting citation.
3. Applications are scored independently by a panel of 3 or 4 members of the BASL Committee.
4. If you are successful of BASL support we will upload your citation to your application on the ACCEA website. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have completed your on line application to ACCEA as per their instructions and regulations.
5. BASL will upload their supporting citations separately to their ranked lists. Individual scores are not submitted to the national panel but a ranked order for each award category is stated.
Please understand that in fairness to all applicants, late submissions will not be considered.
Further information on how BASL decides whom to support can be found in the document below:
Download How BASL Decides_ACCEA 2020.pdf
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact firstname.lastname@example.org .
The year 2020 has been designated as the ‘Year of the Nurse and the Midwife’ by the World Health Organization (WHO) in recognition of the contributions they make. The most desperate of problems for the National Health Service is of nursing shortages and WHO’s chief nurse Elizabeth Iro called for countries to recognise that ‘it is the only way they can achieve universal health coverage in which everyone has access to quality and affordable healthcare services that they need’.
Historically, nurses took up advanced practices to serve remote rural areas as a part of Grenfell Mission in 19th century; fallout of World War II and shortage of experienced nurses necessitated formal development of these roles. Internationally, specialist nurses have filled the gaps in family practice as well as hospital residency programmes (Download History of advanced nursing1.pdf). In Hepatology, the role of specialist nurses became established with the recognition of hepatitis C and advances in its treatment. Now nurses lead key services in Hepatology across the UK co-ordinating cancer care, performing transient elastographies, ascites drainage, and liver biopsies as well as contributing to advances through research. Nurse-led services are associated with superior performance indicators such as lower rate of emergency admission to hospitals for paracentesis.
The global shortage of nurses is predicted to reach 9 million by 2030, albeit, Pope Francis enthusiastically supporting the ‘noblest of the professions’ by hailing nurses ‘the most numerous’!
In the ‘Year of the Nurse’ and 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, BASL will celebrate this nursing achievement through an award during BASL2020, 8-11th September Plymouth.
A rise in alcohol duty in the upcoming Budget could help fund thousands of new jobs in health and public services, say top health experts.
In a letter to the Chancellor, the Alcohol Health Alliance (AHA), a coalition of more than 50 leading UK health organisations, call for an increase in alcohol duty by 2% above inflation to ease pressure on public finances, tackle the harm caused by alcohol and fund our NHS.
Recent cuts to alcohol duty have cost the government more than £1 billion every year – enough to fund the salaries of 40,000 nurses or 29,000 police officers.
Current levels of duty – and the constant pressure to reduce them further – have been immensely costly to the Government and wider society.
Research from the University of Sheffield shows that cuts in alcohol duty since 2012 have led to:
• 1,969 additional deaths
• 61,386 additional hospitalisations
• £317 million in additional costs to the NHS
• 111,062 additional criminal offences
• 484,727 additional days of workplace sickness absence
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: “Alcohol is 64% cheaper than it was thirty years ago, and its availability at these prices is encouraging more of us to drink at unhealthy levels. It is no coincidence that deaths from liver disease have increased in line with alcohol’s affordability in the UK. In order to protect the future health of our society, the Government must take action now by increasing duty on alcohol and investing that money into our over-stretched and underfunded NHS and public services.”
Helen Donovan, Professional Lead for Public Health at the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Alcohol abuse continues to do serious damage to people’s lives and it is often society’s most vulnerable who are hit hardest by our failure to confront it. With alcohol-related admissions to hospitals have rising year-on-year in England and thousands of lives continuing to be cut short, it is clear that urgent action is needed to tackle the ill-effects of alcohol abuse. Increasing the duty on alcohol sales is just one step required to relieve pressure on NHS services; this revenue could be invested in nursing staff and services based within communities that aim to change cultural and social attitudes towards alcohol and provide world-class health protection programmes.“
BMA Board of Science Chair Professor Dame Parveen Kumar said: “Despite having a wealth of evidence to show the devastating impact that alcohol has on health, families and society, nowhere near enough is being done to reduce the risks to the public’s health. As doctors, we see the detrimental impact that alcohol has on health on a daily basis. Not only the impact on physical health, being linked to conditions such as cancer and liver cirrhosis, but also the profoundly destructive impact it can have on mental health. At a time when NHS resources and staff are in short supply, the extra funding raised from the increase in alcohol duty could go directly back into NHS services, as well as funding local alcohol prevention and support programmes. Increasing duty on alcohol is one of the wider measures that the Government must take if we are to stop alcohol resulting in more lives being ruined, or worse still, lost.”
Professor Julia Sinclair, Chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “As a frontline addiction psychiatrist I see first-hand the damage alcohol causes to the health of individuals, their families and wider society. Alcohol related hospital admissions have reached record levels, costing the NHS millions, and comes at a time when devastating cuts have been made to addiction services. The Chancellor should increase alcohol duty to protect people’s health and to reduce the increasing pressures on the NHS.”
Dr Zulfiquar Mirza, Alcohol Lead at the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said: “We are concerned by the harm attributable to alcohol in our society, particularly those relating to short- and long-term health, crime and disorder. The brunt of the short-term health consequences of excess and irresponsible alcohol consumption falls on the ambulance service and the UK’s already hard-pressed Emergency Departments. Many alcohol related attendances to the ED are preventable and hamper the ability of our emergency care systems to look after other patients, so we welcome the Alcohol Health Alliance’s move to increase alcohol duty.”
The Guts UK / Dr Falk awards recognise the achievements of those who bring new insight to gastroenterology and hepatology, and the collaboration that furthers patient care. These awards are an opportunity to achieve national recognition as well as the financial support for career progression.
A £1,000 prize for the best essay on gastroenterology or hepatology research personally undertaken by medical students who were on an intercalated BSc/MRes/MSc/MPH/MBPhD* course during the previous academic year (2018-19).
Four £1,500 prizes for medical students taking full-time science degrees (BSc/MRes/MSc/MPH/MBPhD*) focusing on gastrointestinal or liver-related disease in the current academic year (2019-20).
Two £2,500 awards for F1/F2 doctors to facilitate prospective research in an area relevant to gastroenterology or hepatology.
A £1,000 award for primary and secondary care gastrointestinal/liver nurses for initiatives that have improved patient care. This year we are also inviting colleagues to nominate nurses to this award.
A £1,000 award for dietitians working in gastroenterology or hepatology for initiatives that have improved patient care.
Up to £10,000 is available for UK-based gastroenterology / hepatology SpR trainees who would like to conduct an audit or quality improvement project in any area of gastroenterology, liver disease or nutrition.
Applications close at 17:00 on Monday 6th April 2020.
For further information and to apply: https://gutscharity.org.uk/research/grants-and-awards/
* PhD students should note that they may apply for the medical student prize only once during their three-year studentship and that they may apply for the essay prize when their PhD has been completed.
The Commission on Alcohol Harm is today launching a call for evidence as part of its inquiry into alcohol harm and the changes needed to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.
The Commission will hold three oral evidence sessions across the UK later this year, and has launched a call for written evidence, with submissions welcomed before the deadline of 12 noon on 17 February 2020.
The Commission is interested in receiving evidence from academic researchers, charities, healthcare professionals, professional bodies, commissioners and those affected by alcohol harm in their personal, professional or family life.
Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said: “The Commission on Alcohol Harm is an extremely important investigation into how all parts of our society are impacted by our drinking habits.
“We need to have voices representing the wide range of experiences of alcohol harm; including those on the front-line, researchers and those with first hand experience of alcohol harm. Together, we can build a solid case for change.”
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, Chair of the Commission on Alcohol Harm, said: “Alcohol plays a huge part of the everyday lives of many people across the UK, and therefore it is important to examine its impact on our society more closely. We need to understand how our drinking habits affect our own health as well as the way alcohol can affect those around us.
“We welcome the input of those who face the effects of alcohol harm in their professional or personal lives in order to help us make meaningful recommendations on a vision for the future.”
To share your views, please submit written evidence to email@example.com by 17 February 2020.
Visit the AHA website for submission guidelines: http://ahauk.org/commission-on-alcohol-harm/ .