The Hepatitis C Trust has announced it is considering seeking judicial review of NHS England’s decision to impose a cap on the number of people treated for hepatitis C (HCV) in England. There are around 160,000 people living with hepatitis C, but treatment will be rationed to just 20,000 individuals over the next two years. Only people with the most advanced liver disease will get the drugs.

Legally, the NHS should provide treatments that NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) has decided are cost-effective. NICE has made a series of recommendations on hepatitis C treatments which NHS England has refused to implement in full. Far fewer people will receive treatment under NHS England’s plans. The Hepatitis C Trust therefore wants to ask the High Court to rule on whether NHS England has acted lawfully.

“People have been waiting years for these drugs because they felt what was on offer before was too toxic,” said Samantha May of the Hepatitis C Trust. “Now suddenly to be told they may have to wait months, even years more is really distressing. Our helpline is overwhelmed with people who cannot understand why NICE says they can be treated now but their hospitals are sending them away and telling them they’ll get a letter at some point in the future.”

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