The Department of Health is to recruit an NHS national clinical director to lead the development of a strategy to combat liver disease.

Health minister Ann Keen said: “This will ensure that clinical evidence and outcomes for patients are at the heart of our work to improve the quality of services to tackle liver disease.”

Professor Rajiv Jalan, secretary of the British Association for the Study of the Liver, said: “We have worked with the British Society of Gastroenterology’s liver section to produce our own set of recommendations, which will provide a solid foundation for the national liver strategy.

“We look forward to working with the DH and new director to ensure that the strategy delivers the changes that we need.”

Liver disease is the fifth most common cause of death in England and may overtake stroke and coronary heart disease within the next 10 to 20 years.

The condition is largely fuelled by lifestyle factors such as excessive drinking and obesity.