A NURSE based at the John Radcliffe Hospital who helped treat local prisoners has gained the top prize in a ‘prestigious’ national award.

Liver specialist Lainie Lawson won the Nurse Recognition award at the Dr Falk Pharma/Guts UK Charity Awards for her initiative to improve hepatitis C virus treatment for prisoners.

Ms Lawson was presented with her award and a £1,000 prize at a dinner last month at the British Society of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting in Glasgow.

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The 37-year-old’s main aim was to increase the number of prisoners tested and treated for Hepatitis C, a virus that can infect the liver and which, if left untreated, can cause potentially life-threatening damage.

There is currently no vaccine for the virus.

Ms Lawson covered five prisons including HMP Bullingdon in Bicester and HMP Huntercombe near Wallingford, a young offenders institute at Aylesbury and Broadmoor mental hospital in Berkshire.

She said: “I have always been passionate about working to reduce the harms related to intravenous drug use, including the transmission of blood borne viruses (BBVs).

“I initiated co-ordinated collaborative teamwork with other agencies to provide prison staff training on BBVs, resulting in prison staff achieving the confidence to offer and undertake testing.

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“We have also switched from venous blood testing to dry blood spot testing which has increased the numbers of tests achieved, and introduced a peer-to-peer project in all the prisons with the specific aim of providing support, increase awareness and reduce stigma.”

The nurse, who lives in South Warwickshire, also developed new pathways and consent forms to allow patients' results to be easily sent to GPs or other prisons if they are released or transferred.

She added: “These developments have allowed for the number of those treated to increase by a massive 164 per cent.

"In addition, we are now working effectively as a larger team to meet the targets for hepatitis C testing and treatment.

“Patient feedback has been extremely positive and most importantly, prisoners now have access to much needed support and information regarding hepatitis C.”

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Now celebrating its 13th year, The Dr Falk Pharma/Guts UK Charity Awards are dedicated to encouraging research and promoting patient care in the field of gastroenterology (digestive disease) and hepatology (liver disease).

Professor Chris Hawkey, president of Guts UK charity which raises funds to fight digestive disorders, said: "These are the most talented health professionals and leaders of tomorrow and support at this early stage helps to signal their potential.”