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New national strategy aimed at 'wiping out' TB in UK launched

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Public Health England and NHS England have announced an £11.5m investment as part of a joint initiative to decrease tuberculosis cases and ultimately eliminate the disease in England.

The 10-point action plan will include improving access and early diagnosis and better treatment, diagnostic and care services.

It will also be focused on tackling TB in under-served groups and improved screening and treatment of new migrants for latent TB infection to bring about a year-on-year reduction in TB cases.

The return of the disease, once thought largely conquered, has become an increasingly urgent problem for public health officials.

In 2013, there were 7,290 TB cases reported in England, an incidence of 13.5 cases per 100,000 of the population. Those most at risk tend be among migrant populations and vulnerable groups, particularly the homeless. 

The UK currently has the second highest rate of TB among Western European countries and, if current trends continue, England will have more TB cases than the whole of the US within two years.

“There is still unacceptable variation in the quality of clinical and public health measures across England”

Paul Cosford

Drug resistant TB is also an increasing problem, with cases of multi-drug resistant TB increasing from 28 cases reported in 2000 to 68 in 2013.

PHE highlighted that TB was concentrated in large urban centres, with “hot spots” concentrated in London, Leicester, Birmingham, Luton, Manchester and Coventry.

The strategy was developed by PHE and NHS England following a three-month consultation, which included responses from over 100 different stakeholders.

Other key partners actively involved in developing the strategy include the British Thoracic Society, TB Alert, and the Association of Directors of Public Health.

Public Health minister Jane Ellison said the strategy would target those most vulnerable to TB by improving access to screening, diagnostic and treatment services.

She also highlighted innovative outreach programmes such as the “Find & Treat” mobile health units.

“Last year I saw the first of these fantastic units at work and am delighted that the team launched their second mobile health unit earlier today,” she said.

Professor Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, added: “While many local areas in England have taken major steps to tackle TB, there is still unacceptable variation in the quality of clinical and public health measures across England.

“Combatting TB is a national priority for PHE and today’s announcement will mark the start of our five-year plan to make a real difference,” he said.

The Collaborative Tuberculosis Strategy for England 2015-20 will be published on the PHE website at 9am today.

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Readers' comments (3)

  • Sadly, my experience as a nurse on a respiratory ward, was that we only had one negative pressure side room. All the side rooms were taken with TB patients that either did not want to take their meds as soon as they left hospital, and so bounced back, or people that were brought to us virtually straight from Gatwick.
    The homeless ones stayed in hospital for many weeks because we could not discharge unless they has somewhere to go.
    Nursing Tb patients is quite a specialist area, we are good at our job but it does take compliance with the treatment. This was one of the areas that in my experience is most prevalent amongst those affected.
    And yes, staff have contracted it.

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  • hope you are not still using these old fashioned puncture tests which scar for life. UK put cost before care and use the oldest treatments discarded by everybody else.

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  • This disease was a rife killer going back 40-50 yrs.My Mum did her training at the Whittington,qualifying in 1948 and doing 2 sets of exams-one for her hospital finals, and one set for the new 'NHS' that had come into being.She told me it was very distressing to work on the 'TB ward' helping people who couldn't breathe with steam inhalations as well as other measures.
    During the 1950's a regime in all schools was put in place, of testing and checking etc. but this was abandoned as everyone 'patted themselves on the back' that TB had been eradicated.
    Now what's happened? This issue has come sneaking back with a vengeance.It might be wise to re-introduce a nationwide screening process in schools ASAP.If children test positive for TB then test parents/extended family too.
    Get onto it NHS!

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