A SPECIALIST service for people with liver disease is opening at York Hospital - meaning patients no longer have to travel to Leeds or Newcastle.

The Heptology Service has taken four years to set up and has come to fruition thanks to Consultant Gastroenterologist Charles Millson, who brings this particular area of expertise to York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Patients will include those with fatty liver disease, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer as well as viral hepatitis infections.

Dr Millson said: “It’s an exciting new development for the Trust to be able to offer a service that concentrates on the management of diseases that affect the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas.

"Patients will no longer have to be referred to specialist services in Leeds and Newcastle, they will be able to be treated at York and Scarborough Hospitals. We already have a waiting list of patients who are choosing to opt for our service so they don’t have to travel.”

Central to the new service is the £80,000 high tech fibroscan, a type of ultrasound that can measure the degree of inflammation in the liver. It shows the condition of the liver and allows doctors to diagnose and monitor diseases.

Dr Millson continued: “The fibroscan is a huge asset to the service as it is a quick, painless test that gives immediate results. It doesn’t have any potential complications or risks and is non-invasive so it provides an excellent alternative to liver biopsy.

"The result is immediate and helps us to anticipate various complications, as well as to monitor and assess the damage caused by conditions such as cirrhosis.

“As many as one in ten people have problems with the liver at some time in their life. Although alcohol abuse is one reason, in fact the causes are more wide ranging and the incidence of almost all types of liver disease is rising. In the UK liver disease is the only major cause of death still increasing year-on-year so we anticipate a busy time ahead.”

- The opening of the new unit was announced as it was reported hospital visits for alcohol poisoning have doubled in six years, with the highest rate among females aged 15 to 19.

Emergency admissions due to the effects of alcohol, such as liver disease, have also risen by more than 50 per cent in nine years to 250,000 a year in England.

The Nuffield Trust said their figures were an underestimate of the impact of drinking because they did not include alcohol-fuelled falls and fights, just illnesses such as alcohol poisoning and liver disease.