Summary. In England, a large number of individuals are infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) and may develop future liver complications, such as decompensated cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Estimates of the magnitude of this future burden are required to plan healthcare resources. We have estimated past incidence of HCV infection in England and predict future burden of end-stage liver disease in the HCV-infected population. A model of the natural history of HCV as a series of disease stages was constructed. A back-calculation approach was performed, using the natural history model and data on annual HCC deaths in England from 1996 to 2004 with mention of HCV and hospital episode statistics for end-stage liver disease with HCV. The number of HCV-infected people living with compensated cirrhosis is predicted to rise from 3705 [95% credible interval (CrI): 2820–4975] in 2005 to 7550 (95% CrI: 5120–11 640) in 2015. The number of decompensated cirrhosis and/or HCC cases is also predicted to rise, to 2540 (95% CrI: 2035–3310) by 2015. HCV incidence increased during the 1980s, with an annual incidence of 12 650 (95% CrI: 6150–26 450) by 1989. HCV-related cirrhosis and deaths from HCC in England are likely to increase dramatically within the next decade. If patients are left undiagnosed and untreated, the future burden of the disease on healthcare resources will be substantial.