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Last Updated: Friday, 3 December, 2004, 02:07 GMT
Doctors call for action over TB
Doctors peruse chest X-ray
Mobile chest X-ray vans were used in the 1950s and 1960s
Urgent action is needed to deal with the rise in tuberculosis cases in the UK, doctors are warning.

In London, the number of cases has nearly doubled in 15 years, with infection rates particularly high among the homeless.

A British Thoracic Society report said tests at hostels and a prison found rates that were 40% higher than in the general population.

The society said new methods and more money were needed to fight the disease.

The NHS needs an additional 40 lung specialists supported by 100 specialist nurses
Andrew Peacock
British Thoracic Society
It said one option would be to use chest X-ray machines in vans sent to test those most at risk.

The Health Protection Agency used such a van, borrowed from the Netherlands, in its tests at three hostels and a prison.

Out of the 577 X-rays taken, 23 people were referred. Of those, three UK-born men were found to have active cases of TB.

The BTS said the vans, last seen in the 1950s and 1960s to tackle high rates of TB then, could be sent to schools or nursing homes if an outbreak of the illness was recorded.


They could also allow doctors to find individual cases before they became contagious.

Professor Andrew Peacock, of the BTS, said: "Pro-active strategies are now needed if we are to win the fight against TB.

"However, we also need adequate resources to back these new strategies up.

"The NHS needs an additional 40 lung specialists supported by 100 specialist nurses with the right equipment to do their job properly."

More than 6,000 people were diagnosed with TB in England in 2002 and around 350 people die from the disease every year.

While TB rates are falling elsewhere in Europe, rates in Britain have risen - by around 25% - in the last 10 years.

In October, Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson released a TB action plan that backed the reintroduction of mobile X-ray vans.

It said asylum seekers, drug users and prisoners would be targeted for tests.

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