NHS England and Public Health England have announced a new collaborative strategy and 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. The UK has the second highest rate of TB among Western European countries and rates are nearly five times higher than in the US.
The strategy presents a 10-point action plan including improving access and early diagnosis; better treatment, diagnostic and care services; tackling TB in under-served groups and improved screening and treatment of new migrants for latent TB infection to bring about a year-on-year reduction in TB cases.
The strategy outlines the need to improve awareness of TB and address stigma among at risk populations, specifically around symptoms and curability, range of local health and care services, and eligibility for free treatments. It highlights the need for third sector organisations, local authorities and the NHS to work together in addressing these issues. It also recommends making sure information is available via community venues such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, libraries and other social settings.
The provision of better information is also included in the strategy under: improving access to high quality diagnostics with the document identifying the need to strengthen education for patients in the use and performance of modern diagnostics for TB; and prevention through specifying the need to educate communities in order to improve the uptake of the BCG vaccination.
In seeking to reduce drug resistant TB, the strategy recognises the need to ‘ensure patient compliance with treatment’. However, there is no specified action identified on supporting patient compliance through the provision of information or education.
The TB strategy was developed by PHE and NHS England following a 3 month consultation which included responses from over 100 different stakeholders. Other partners actively involved in developing the strategy include the British Thoracic Society, 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).
The full strategy can be read here.