Hepatitis C Positive is a weekly peer support group which aims to help and motivate those in Swindon affected by the liver virus.
Established in 2011 by Phil Spalding, the group meets on Mondays at 6.30pm, at Broadgreen Community Centre, Salisbury Street, and is part of Swindon and Wiltshire Alcohol and Drug Service.
Explaining his motivation to set up the group, which is offered as part of Swindon and Wiltshire Alcohol and Drug Service, Phil said: “When I was going through treatment there wasn’t much in the way of peer support. It’s motivational for people who are in emotional distress to hear from others who have gone, or are going, through the same thing.
“We welcome everyone from friends, family, health and social care professionals and the just plain curious. We often have a speaker and over the weeks we’ve heard from therapists, researchers and Hep C Trust staff.
“Our aim is to cover all practical and emotional aspects of Hepatitis C and how to manage it. People can come along and relax in good company, confident they are in the right place to discuss their challenges and issues with others that understand.”
Pictured, Phil, right, with Sid Gutteridge from Swindon who received early treatment for Hep C
As part of his work for SWADS Phil attends many conferences, and networks with pharmaceutical companies, researchers, charities and organisations specialising in liver disease. Commenting on the success of the Swindon group he said: “We’ve supported about 140 people since we began and now the group is recognised as one of the best in the country.”
The Hepatitis C virus was first described in 1989. It is transmitted through blood to blood contact and people who are infected typically have no symptoms until the liver has been significantly damaged. The virus is most common in those who have ever injected drugs, or come into contact with contaminated needles via tattooing and skin piercing.
Other risk factors include undergoing medical procedures in developing countries, receiving blood transfusions prior to 1989, and sharing razors and toothbrushes.
Currently Swindon residents affected by Hepatitis C have to travel to Oxford to receive treatment. However, following the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment recently completed by the Clinical Commissioning Group in Swindon, options are being considered for how this care could be brought to Great Western Hospital.
Commenting on current treatment arrangements Public Health Specialty Registrar Sarah Weld said: “Whilst patients do sometimes find the travel to Oxford difficult the care they receive there is excellent. The next step for the CCG is to explore how to bring this to Swindon.”
Phil can be contacted in confidence on 07580 025116 or firstname.lastname@example.org