Tuberculosis Programme

Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious disease caused by airborne bacteria, spread through the air when people with TB disease cough, sneeze, or speak. Closely linked to deprivation, overcrowding and malnutrition, it is a serious long term condition which is now curable, thanks to drugs developed in the 1940s and 1950s.

Symptoms of active TB disease include a chronic cough, fever, chills, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue and haemoptysis (coughing up blood from the lungs and bronchial tubes). While TB generally affects the lungs, it can also affect other parts of the body. These symptoms can be mild and go undetected for many months before becoming severe, which is why timely detection is essential and important.

The number of people with TB in England has fallen significantly since 2011. Most new cases are the result of infection abroad. Transmission in England accounts for approximately 25% of new cases.

People with active TB disease require prolonged treatment, including the standard treatment course of 6 months. Drug resistant or complex TB disease requires longer courses of treatment.

To monitor TB infection rates, treatment and transmission, NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have jointly developed the TB Action Plan, 2021-2026 which builds on the TB Strategy 2015-2020, and the innovations and practices developed during the pandemic to support, maintain and restore TB services.  

Treatment for TB and Latent TB Infection (LTBI) in the UK is free for everyone, regardless of immigration status and irrespective of eligibility for other NHS care.

TB Action Plan 2021 – 2026

The TB Action Plan 2021 – 2026 will improve the prevention, detection and control of TB in England. There are five key priorities which are addressed as part of the plan:

  • Priority 1 – Prevent TB
  • Priority 2 – Detect TB
  • Priority 3 – Control TB disease
  • Priority 4 – Recovery post COVID
  • Priority 5 – Workforce

The overarching aim is to support a year on year reduction in TB incidence and transmission rates enabling the UK to meet its commitment to the WHO to eliminate TB by 2035.