Nine out of 10 tuberculosis (TB) specialists believe the number of TB cases in the UK is set to rise over the next five years, and there is a failure to implement the government's much fanfared TB Action Plan, according to results of a new survey by the British Thoracic Society, published today.
The TB experts' prediction is supported by new figures, published by the Health Protection Agency, which show yet further increases in the number of TB cases in this country, which have risen year on year for the last decade.
Professor John Macfarlane, Chairman of the British Thoracic Society, said: "This Victorian disease is on the march. Doctors up and down the country are warning us TB is in danger of staging a serious comeback."
The results of the BTS's survey among TB leads show worrying gaps in the implementation of the government's TB Action Plan since its publication in 2004, including lack of TB resources and trained staff and failures to meet referral times:
TB specialist nurses seem to be worst affected. NICE guidelines state that TB specialist nurses are essential for the management of patients, yet almost a third (30%) of respondents to the survey claimed that TB specialist nurse positions remain under threat or review. This is supported by further research from Britain's national TB charity, TB Alert, which shows five out of 11 high incidence areas in the UK do not meet the recommended 1:50 TB nurse-to-patient ratio.
Paul Sommerfeld, Chair of TB Alert, said: "TB numbers are still rising despite optimistic predictions in the 2004 TB Action Plan of a drop within three years. It is deeply troubling that at the same time resources for TB services are drying up. It should be clear that the London guideline of one specialist TB nurse per 40 TB cases must apply to all high-incidence TB areas. It is unacceptable that barely a third of such areas meet this standard."
Professor John Macfarlane, Chairman of the British Thoracic Society, said: "Since the publication of the Action Plan in 2004, the number of TB cases in the UK has risen year after year. It's clear the government is going to fail to meet its success criteria if targets set out in the TB Action Plan are not urgently prioritised and PCTs and trusts are not given the leadership and resources they need to achieve this and see TB start to decline."
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