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Mersey Care becomes 1st NHS Trust to eliminate Hepatitis C for more than 6 months

MERSEY Care's community drug and alcohol addictions team has achieved a unique landmark by becoming the only NHS Trust in the UK to eliminate Hepatitis C from their service users and maintained elimination for more than 6 months.

The team, based at Brook Place in Liverpool, has now been free of Hepatitis C within their service users for the last 8 months. It's a virus which can cause serious and potentially life threatening damage to the liver and is particularly common among more deprived communities, including those who have a history of substance abuse.

They reached such a consistency by testing almost everyone registered with the service, no matter what risks they have been exposed to, and regularly reviewing their risk status and date of their last test.

"All our Brook Place staff have been retrained on Hep C understanding, testing and offering harm reduction advice and risk of re-infection prevention information. That includes giving out safe needle exchange cards that we created and offering advice on not sharing equipment like toothbrushes, razors and pipes. It's a remarkable achievement and has taken a lot of hard work from everyone who works in the team. We know the virus is at its lowest levels in this country for 10 years, but the discipline required to eliminate it from our service users for 8 months is really exceptional."
explained Hayley Curran, Recovery Co-ordinator at Brook Place.

Maintaining the elimination of Hep C has been a collaborative approach with Gilead Sciences, Hepatitis C U Later, the Hepatitis C Trust and Mersey Care's Operational Delivery Network nurse, who is based at the Royal site of Liverpool University Hospital. The joined up approach has proved vital in providing the best standard of care to patients.

According to the latest figures provided by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) last year, Hepatitis C is most common among some of the most deprived areas in the country, so eliminating the virus helps towards Mersey Care's aim of reducing health inequalities.

This helps improve the service users' physical health and increases positive outcomes, which also aids their recovery from substance abuse by becoming more in control of their health and care provided.

The highly specialist team at Brook Place also provide a wide variety of services and are not, despite common belief, just a substitute prescriber. They provide a recovery focused service to people living in Liverpool who have problems using opiates and deliver clinics for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Spirometry testing, Hep C testing, sexual health and wound care.

There is a long list of other services that are provided from Brook Place and further information can be found on their specialised webpage on the Mersey Care website.

Liverpool City Council set to deliver budget to protect vital services

LIVERPOOL City Council has set out its budget proposals for 2024/25 which includes a £20m drive to improve and transform key frontline services.

A key focus of the balanced budget for the next financial year will be to invest this new additional funding into supporting adult social services, children in care, tackling homeless and investing in environmental programmes.

In addition, the Council has increased budgets for demand-led services, as a result of the continuing impact from high inflation and the cost of living crisis, by a further £24m in 2024/25. This is on top of what was thought previously required, some £25m, as set out in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) in March 2023.

The focus of this budget is to continue to support the most vulnerable in the city's communities and to deliver improvements driven by better financial management, such as improved collection of payments and maximising the use of new legislation to bring empty properties back into use as quickly as possible.

Key elements of the additional funding include:-

  • £7.8m to support transformation activities to improve the delivery of Council services and investment decisions.

  • £3.5m for Children's Services to support its improvement plan, rising to £4.8 million from 2025/26.

  • £1.7m for street cleansing over the next 2 financial years.

  • £1.5m for neighbourhood enforcement programmes over next 2 financial years.

  • £1.4m for the new Neighbourhood Model services.

  • An additional £1m per year from 2025/26 will be invested to support homelessness services.

As well as additional investment, the Council will also put aside 6% of its next expenditure budget in reserve. This equates to £37m which provides financial resilience in case of the need for emergency spending.

The new investment is possible because the Council is starting to deliver on its huge transformation programme to make it as efficient and productive as it can be. The Council is projected to make £85m of savings by 2025/26 of which a significant amount relates to improvements in adults and children's social care.

In addition a further £18m will have been generated by 2025/26 thanks to increased income collection rates as a result of improvements to online payment processes and streamlining systems.

One such example has been a review of the Single Person discount for Council Tax which has already resulted in more than 1,600 households cancelling their discount, ensuring records are correct and generating an additional £750k. The Council will also continue to provide Council Tax support for the poorest families.

Liverpool City Council has also absorbed the 9.8% National Living Wage increase, which comes into effect from April 1 2024.

The Commissioners have described this budget report as:- "the culmination of some very impressive teamwork within finance and between:- finance and strategic directors and Departments, and between Officers and the Executive. In our view this report proposes a robust budget for 2024/25 and a solid foundation for managing both revenue and capital over the following years of the MTFS."

It is being recommended that Council Tax should rise by 4.99%, which is in line with most other local authorities in England. The majority of households, which are in Band A, would pay an extra £1.25 per week. This would raise in total an estimated £235m for the Council, based on a collection rate of 94%. However, for context, the Council's Adult Social Care bill for 2024/25 will be £247m.

Business Rates will also rise in this financial year, as set by the Government, which is projected to generate £200m for the Council.

The spending plans were approved by Cabinet at a meeting on:- Tuesday, 20 February 2024, and will now be put to all Councillors at the Budget Council meeting on:- Wednesday, 6 March 2024.

Council Leader, Cllr Liam Robinson, said:- "Despite the huge financial challenges that the local Government sector is facing, I am hugely proud of the work of the entire Council in proposing a budget which protects essential services and invests in many of the services we know people value the most. Our move to a new Neighbourhood Model of joining up services will make us more effective and responsive to issues raised by residents and Councillors, as well as enabling us to tackle issues with rogue landlords and anti-social behaviour. In addition to this, we are investing significantly in tackling the issues that matter most to residents, such as flytipping, street cleansing and homelessness. We are also putting more money into improving our Children's Services, to make sure we deliver on our pledge to transform the department into 1 of the best performing in the country over the next few years."

Deputy Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, Cllr Ruth Bennett, said:- "We have only been able to propose investment in key services thanks to the hard work that has gone in over the last year to putting our financial house in order. The improvements we are making in improving our systems and processes, cracking down on debtors who can, but refuse to pay, driving up the collection of Council Tax and business rates and a focused approach to contract procurement is already boosting our finances significantly. At the same time I'm proud of the fact we are able to maintain welfare support for those who need it the most, as well as investing in our Benefits Maximisation team to help tackle poverty and our new Debt Recovery policy which also underpins that approach. This prudent financial stewardship reflects our determination to become an efficient organisation that delivers quality services which provide value for money for our residents."

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