The NHS could save £600m every year simply by screening people believed to be at risk of liver disease, experts have claimed.
Liver disease is the fifth-biggest killer in the UK, and the only major cause of death which is on the increase.
Earlier this year the British Liver Trust estimated that one million lives could be saved by investment into early testing for liver disease. Now the charity has calculated that the health service would stand to save millions if patients were diagnosed earlier, before the disease has become complex and expensive to treat.
More than 15,000 people were treated by the NHS for advanced liver disease in 2013, at a cost of more than half a billion pounds, the charity said.
The disease is often detected late, because of a lack of significant signs and symptoms in its early stages.
Andrew Langford, the charity’s chief executive called on GPs to interview patients about their alcohol intake and urged the Government to make liver disease screening for high risk individuals a funding priority in 2014.
“Overindulging in fatty food too frequently, having an alcoholic drink every night and not making time for regular exercise are major contributing factors for liver disease,” Mr Langford said. “Everyone is affected differently and symptoms can be almost unrecognisable until the damage is beyond repair – the government needs to take this seriously.”