The fight against Tuberculosis (TB) in England must be stepped up if the disease is to be beaten, MPs have warned.
In a report published ahead of World TB Day on 24 March, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global TB says that, while rates of the disease have declined gradually in recent years, a third of patients are not treated for more than four months after falling ill, with serious implications for patients, rates of drug-resistance and public health.
England has one of the highest rates of TB in Europe, with over 5,500 cases in 2017. The Government introduced a national TB strategy for England in 2015 which has seen cases of the disease begin to fall, but the strategy is set to expire next year. The report warns that a failure to sustain and scale-up key programmes would see hard-won progress undone in just a few years.
Those most vulnerable to developing drug-resistant TB continue to face the greatest barriers. Innovative programmes such as a Find & Treat van and engagement with civil society organisations have been proven to be cost-effective, but funding for services has been highly variable and many programmes are now at risk.
TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing 1.6 million people a year. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is the world’s only major drug-resistant infection transmitted through the air and accounts for one third of all AMR-associated deaths today.
Nick Herbert, Conservative MP for Arundel & South Downs and Co-Chairman of the All-Party Group, said:
“The Government’s TB Strategy has been central to turning the tide against TB in England, and it is vital that this momentum is sustained. The strategy and funding for key programmes must be renewed, particularly for at-risk groups. We know all too well that TB thrives when we lose focus – it’s high-time to end this disease in our country once and for all.”
Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall who Co-Chairs the All-Party Group alongside Herbert, said:
“At the UN High-Level Meeting on TB last year, the Government committed to stepping up efforts to tackle the world’s deadliest infectious disease. That commitment has to apply at home as much as it does abroad. Urgent action is needed to ensure the most vulnerable in our society have access to the TB diagnosis and treatment they need.”
The full report can be accessed here.