Abbott calls for tougher TB screening

Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott has called for a more robust screening programme to detect tuberculosis.

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP said that the disease which was a major killer in the UK 100 years ago should not be considered a disease of the past.

Research by scientists at Imperial College concluded that all under 35s should be screened for the illness which is spread in the air and can be transmitted to someone else when a carrier coughs or sneezes.

They also recommended that the UK should change its screening policy and include all new arrivals from the Indian subcontinent with a specific blood test.

They found that current x-ray testing failed to pick up 70 per cent of latent TB which carriers can later pass to others.

Ms Abbott said: “The national effort to control tuberculosis needs to be scaled up in order to halt the continuing rise in cases and ongoing transmission. It is alarming that we do not have comprehensive screening at ports of entry. I will be calling on the UK National Screening Committee to look at proposals for a cost-effective screening programme capable of identifying the vast majority of immigrants with latent tuberculosis.

She added: “This report should remind us that we should not think of tuberculosis as a disease of the past. Challenges posed by tuberculosis cross social, geographical, professional, medical and scientific boundaries.”

Most Read

“Rates of tuberculosis continue to increase in many parts of the country. Much of this rise affects disadvantaged communities including certain ethnic minority groups and those with social risk factors such as homelessness and drug and alcohol misuse.”

According to Health Protection Agency figures City And Hackney Primary Care Trust dealt with an average of 127 cases of drug resistant TB a year between 2007 and 2009.

Symptoms include fever and night sweats, persistent cough, weight loss and blood in saliva.

Ms Abbott said: “Healthcare in local areas must do more to ensure that people coming to live in the UK from high-risk countries are screened when they arrived at an airport or port, or when they registered with a GP. Students coming to Britain should also be tested.”