NHS England launches £11.5M strategy to wipe out tuberculosis in the UK

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NHS England has announced, along with Public Health England (PHE), a £11.5 million investment to decrease the number of tuberculosis (TB) cases and ultimately eliminate tuberculosis as a public health problem in England.

In 2013, there were 7,290 cases of TB reported in England, an incidence of 13.5 cases per 100,000 of the population.

The UK has the second highest rate of TB among western European countries and rates are nearly five times higher than in the US.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s Medical Director said: “This is an important strategy which is why NHS England is committing £10million towards tackling the high rates of TB incidence in England. This money will focus on TB screening and any subsequent treatment. Our goal is to eliminate TB as a public health problem.”

NHS England has worked with key stakeholders to develop a 10-point action plan for England which includes:

  • improving access and early diagnosis
  • better diagnostics, treatment and care services
  • tackling TB in under-served groups
  • improved screening and treatment of new migrants for latent TB infection to bring about a year-on-year reduction in TB cases. 

The figures are in marked contrast to the US, Germany and the Netherlands which have all seen consistent reductions by using concerted approaches to TB prevention, treatment and control.

If current trends continue, England will have more TB cases than the whole of the US within two years.

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

In England, TB is concentrated in large urban centres, with ‘hot spots’ in London, Leicester, Birmingham, Luton, Manchester and Coventry. TB clinics in London manage more cases a year that those in all other western European capital cities put together.

How do you know if someone has tuberculosis?

TB disease develops slowly in the body, and it can take several months for symptoms to appear. The TB germ is usually spread in the air.

Any of the following symptoms may suggest TB:

  • fever and night sweats
  • persistent cough
  • losing weight
  • blood in the patient’s sputum.

Published 1st February 2015 

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