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

NHS England has today announced, along with Public Health England (PHE), a £11.5 million investment to decrease the number of 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.”

Professor Paul Cosford, Director for Health Protection and Medical Director at Public Health England, said: “TB should be consigned to the past and yet it is occurring in England at higher rates than most of Western Europe. This situation must be reversed.”

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.

The TB strategy was developed by NHS England, in collaboration with PHE, 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 (BTS), TB Alert, the Local Government Association, the Department of Health, the Association of Directors of Public Health and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Public Health England will provide annual reports on progress across a suite of indicators relevant to the key areas of action.