GPs to screen at-risk patients in bid to drive down TB rate

Targeted screening by GP practices, faster referrals and better education for primary care clinicians will form part of the UK's strategy to curb tuberculosis over the next five years.

Cough: GPs to check patients for TB (Photo: JH Lancy)
Cough: GPs to check patients for TB (Photo: JH Lancy)

The strategy, led by NHS England and Public Health England, aims to halve the number of TB cases in the UK by 2050. Britain is one of the worst-affected countries in Europe, with around 7,300 cases being reported in 2013.

TB is linked to deprivation, with large urban areas being at high risk. London, Leicester, Birmingham, Luton, Manchester and Coventry have TB rates three times higher than the national average.

The 10-point plan includes improving access to services, ensuring early diagnosis, and better TB treatment.

Targeted TB screening and education as part of new patient checks at GP surgeries will form part of the plan.

Targeted screening

GPs in high-incidence areas will also be informed about the ‘TB epidemiology’ and told how to refer patients.

The strategy also says that ‘raising awareness of GPs and other health and social care professionals in high-incidence areas about the TB epidemiology in their locality and referral systems’ will be a priority.

Bradford, Leeds, Kirklees, Slough and Reading were also listed as areas with a high TB rate.

Jane Ellison, public health minister, said: ‘This strategy is a significant step forward in helping us to control and reduce cases of TB, which still affects thousands of people in England every year.’

‘It will target those most vulnerable to TB by improving access to screening, diagnostic and treatment services as well as innovative outreach programmes.’

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