Page last updated at 23:59 GMT, Saturday, 29 March 2008

Anger at 'missed TB opportunity'

TB bacteria
UK cases of TB have jumped 17% in the space of three years

London has become Europe's TB capital because primary care trusts are failing to adopt measures drawn up four years ago, MPs and health campaigners say.

Just 55% of PCTs in England routinely screen new immigrants, according to a poll by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis.

One PCT with a very high TB rate had even scrapped its screening programme.

PCT representatives argued resources were finite and that decisions were taken on the basis of local needs.

TB is continuing to rise in the UK, and last week the first case of a form resistant to many drugs was diagnosed.

Globally, drug resistant TB is becoming a major problem.

Some 101 PCTs out of 152 responded to the survey sent out by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis (APPG) and British Thoracic Society, the body which represents specialists in respiratory disease.

Only half had appointed an individual to be responsible for leading action on TB, while 41% said they were not actively raising awareness of the disease.

Both measures are laid out in the "TB Toolkit", which was drawn up by the Department of Health.

The picture of the disease varies across the country, with cities with large immigrant populations much more likely to see a multitude of cases.

London, now Europe's TB capital, accounts for half of the cases nationwide.

Rising numbers

Levels of TB have been increasing year-on-year in the UK since the late 1980s and the latest available figures from 2006 showed the number of cases increased 17% from three years previously.

KEY POINTS OF 2004 ACTION PLAN
Better screening programmes
Multi-lingual and culturally sensitive information
Higher vaccination coverage of babies in high-risk groups
Stronger TB surveillance in prisons
DNA bacterial screening to track the disease
More research into drugs and vaccines

Last week, doctors in Glasgow confirmed they were treating Scotland's first diagnosed case of the drug-resistant XDR strain in an man who had come to the UK from Somalia.

The majority of PCTs predict that the number of TB cases in their region is set to rise.

Julie Morgan, chairman of the AAPG, said: "Our findings are deeply worrying.

"The Action Plan was published almost four years ago, and yet clearly very little has been achieved."

She added: "TB is clearly not getting the attention it deserves. There should therefore be a properly-funded national TB awareness campaign, tailored to local circumstances, aimed at healthcare professionals as well as the general public."

Professor John Macfarlane, chairman of the British Thoracic Society, said: "This report confirms the experience of our members trying to tackle TB in hospitals, who are not being provided with the tools and resources they need to effectively manage TB."

"It clearly shows that PCTs must as a matter of urgency identify and commission TB services. Action one needs to be the appointment of a TB lead in every PCT."

David Stout, director of the PCT Network, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: "PCTs have the difficult job with finite resources of making decisions on local priorities.

"All PCTs are currently undertaking local needs assessments which will include an assessment of local rates of TB and will prioritise action accordingly."




SEE ALSO
Drug-resistant TB case confirmed
21 Mar 08 |  Glasgow, Lanarkshire and West
High hopes for TB vaccine
27 Feb 08 |  Health
Drive to curb drug-resistant TB
22 Jun 07 |  Health
Drug resistant TB 'more severe'
16 Dec 06 |  Health
Tuberculosis
08 Feb 03 |  Medical notes

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