Turning the tide on tuberculosis

ImageThe London TB Extended Contact Tracing Team (LTBEx) offers a new ‘personalised care and population health approach tailored to London’s specific needs’, achieving a significant increase in the number of identified cases by working throughout the capital as a whole, rather than in geographical areas.

It is the first dedicated team to have both public health specialists and clinical TB nurses. It can lead on, or support, all aspects of incident management across the whole of London in a standardised, timely and effective way.

TB remains a significant public health issue, even though it can be controlled through the early identification and treatment of new cases and the prevention of further cases through effective contact tracing of people who have been exposed. The airborne infectious disease is strongly associated with poverty and health inequalities. It is found among marginalised groups with poor access to healthcare and often other health or social issues, such as unstable housing, vulnerable employment and addictions. Language barriers can also be a problem. London has especially high rates of TB - more than any other comparable city in Europe and it accounts for more than one third of national cases - which has proved particularly difficult to address.

TB nurse specialist Sarah Murphy explains: ‘TB does not respect commissioning boundaries, especially in London where the population is especially mobile. The team’s solution has been to take screening to schools, colleges, workplaces, detention centres and hostels. There, LTBEx nurses clinically assess contacts, perform tuberculin skin tests and phlebotomy and record all data into their database. Working in the community also offers health promotion opportunities. The nurses often provide TB awareness sessions for parents and at school assemblies.

The team has created the first pan London TB contact screening database to ensure full and proper public health action is taken.

Further information on this pan London initiative can be found here http://bit.ly/1JaaUvP

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