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Social support needed for disadvantaged TB patients

Greater social support is needed to care for the growing number of UK residents who have tuberculosis (TB), research shows.

"TB has risen considerably in major European cities in the last 10 years and London is no exception," says lead researcher Gill Craig from City University's Institute of Health Sciences in London, UK.

"Increased migration, poverty, HIV, poor quality and overcrowded housing, homelessness, the failure of TB control in institutionalised populations and lifestyle factors related to drug misuse have all played a role."

Scientists studied 250 patients attending one London hospital between 2003 and 2005.

They say that TB care must focus on patients' social needs as well as their medical state in order to successfully tackle this challenging health issue.

The study found that just under 33% of patients with TB were homeless, 13% had no income and 39% were receiving welfare benefits.

Homeless patients with TB tended to stay in hospital for longer and cost the NHS two and half times more than that needed to treat people who were not homeless.

"Our study shows that greater emphasis is needed on developing a social model of care, which includes TB link workers to enable access to housing and allied support services and promote partnership working with the statutory and voluntary sectors" says Craig.

"The challenge for commissioners of TB services will be to link the evidence for social care with health policy and practice in order to reconfigure services with an emphasis on social support and prevention."

Journal of Advanced Nursing