Pharmacy screening for hepatitis C could help to identify more people with the virus, according to experts.
It comes after a pilot scheme in 19 pharmacies across the country found more people with the virus than the number identified by family doctors.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Hepatitis C Trusts said the findings showed the need for wider screening.
One in six people tested in pharmacies as part of the pilot came back as positive for hepatitis C, which can be transmitted through infected blood, or hepatitis B, which can also be transmitted through other bodily fluids.
It is thought up to 500,000 people are living with the virus in the UK without their knowledge.
Hepatitis C can cause serious liver disease and liver cancer but many people carry the disease for years with no symptoms.
The results involved pharmacies offering the test to patients at risk, who were all identified through a series of questions designed to determine their chance of exposure.
From 234 tests carried out, 35 people were diagnosed with hepatitis C (15% of tests) and four people with hepatitis B (2% of tests).
In GP surgeries, 4% of targeted tests find positive hepatitis C patients and 2% find hepatitis B patients.
Gary Warner, a pharmacist on the Isle of Wight, said: “The results speak for themselves – pharmacies see a different cohort of people to those who see their GP and therefore we can access and diagnose people who otherwise would not have been tested.”
Copyright Press Association 2010