This site is intended for health professionals only

TB rates remain 'unacceptably high'

A total of 7,892 cases of tuberculosis (TB) were notified in the UK in 2013, a decrease on the 8,729 cases reported in 2012, however Public Health England said the figures should not be a cause for celebration as they remain "unacceptably high". 

The PHE annual TB in the UK report shows that the UK continues to have one of the highest rates of TB in Western Europe. 

Latest figures give an incidence of 12.3 cases per every 100,000 people in the UK. 

As in previous years, London accounted for the highest proportion of cases in the UK, with 2,985 cases of TB, or 37.8% of UK cases.

The rate of TB amongst the non-UK born population (70 per 100,000). remains considerably higher than the rate in the UK born (4 per 100,000), The majority of such cases occurred in settled migrants rather than new arrivals to the UK, with 85% of cases diagnosed more than two years after entry to the UK.

The overall TB rate in the UK-born population has not declined in the past decade. However, the rate in UK-born children has decreased in the past five years, suggesting some reduction in recent transmission of TB in the UK.

As in previous years, TB was concentrated among the most deprived populations, with more than two thirds (70%) of cases resident in the 40% most deprived areas, and one in 10 cases having a social risk factor for TB (a history of homelessness, imprisonment or alcohol or drug misuse). 

The small drop in TB numbers and rates in the past two years is likely to be influenced by a number of factors, including changes in migration patterns, and the impact of interventions to improve the control of TB, both in the UK and abroad.

Dr Lucy Thomas, head of TB Surveillance for PHE), said: “While welcome, this small decrease can't be seen as cause for celebration when TB rates in England remain among the highest in Western Europe. Early diagnosis and treatment, including appropriate access and support for the most vulnerable cases, are key to improving TB control.

“Sustained reductions in TB, particularly amongst the most vulnerable groups, will require the social and economic determinants of the disease to be addressed, in addition to the provision of strong and effective public health and clinical services.”

Dr Paul Cosford, director for Health Protection and Medical Director for PHE, said: “We have made TB one of the key priorities for PHE and are working with key partners to oversee the development of a stronger national approach to TB control.

“Our forthcoming Collaborative TB Strategy for England will aim to significantly reduce the suffering and harm caused by this illness, and contribute to elimination of the TB as a public health problem in England.”