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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 23:18 GMT 00:18 UK
'I had to go abroad to get diagnosed'
Doctors and MPs say the NHS is failing hepatitis C patients.

What is it like to try to struggle to access the services?

Maria Miller
Mrs Miller had to go abroad to get diagnosed

Maria Miller, originally from the Czech Republic, came to the UK believing the NHS to be the envy of the world.

She moved with her half-British husband to set up home in the mid 1990s.

Within a few years she started developing all sort of problems.

"I was getting very tired, I had pain behind my eyes and sore joints," said the 53-year-old mother-of-three from Portsmouth.

"I also had irritable bowel syndrome. I kept going to the doctors, but no-one could put their finger on it.

I came back to the UK thinking at least I would be able to get things sorted, but that didn't turn out to be the case
Maria Miller, hepatitis C

"Eventually I got terrible back pain, and this time the doctors found something."

In 2004 doctors identified a cyst on her liver, but still the cause was not established.

"I went on to the Internet to see if I could find any clues, and found it could be caused by an infection.

"I decided to go back to the Czech Republic to see if doctors there could help."

Almost immediately she was diagnosed with hepatitis C, the blood-borne virus which can cause serious liver damage.

But, as she was now living in the UK, she would have had to pay for the drug treatment as well as spending time away from her children.

"I came back to the UK thinking at least I would be able to get things sorted, but that didn't turn out to be the case."

To get referred for treatment, doctors needed to carry out a biopsy.

More than a year went by while she waited for an appointment, during which she campaigned for treatment - even complaining to her MP.

She was then referred for treatment at a hospital in Southampton.

But, still worried about the damage the infection was doing, she decided at the end of 2005 to go to France to have further diagnostic blood tests and a non-invasive fibroscan of the liver, which is used there as an alternative to liver biopsy.

When she returned home, Southampton agreed to treat her without the need for a biopsy.

But Mrs Miller is still upset. "I am really quite angry. It has been such a struggle to get where I am now. It shouldn't be like this."

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11 Jun 05 |  Health
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22 Mar 05 |  Health


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