Team focus: TB service

30 Oct 2015 Sam Brown

Our Team Focus is an opportunity to increase awareness and understanding of our organisation’s varying services, no matter how large or small. This month, the spotlight is on the TB specialist nurses.

There are 4 nurses in the team, providing outreach and support to about 110 people with active or latent TB each year in Bristol and South Gloucestershire. The team are responsible for identifying and arranging screening for people who’ve been exposed to tuberculosis (TB). People often think of TB as a “disease of the past,” but after appearing to be heading that way in the 1970/80s, it re-emerged, and rates in the UK have increased steadily over the past decade or so.

Managing and controlling TB requires good partnership working; a lot of different people play a vital part. As such, the team work closely with medical teams at local hospitals, and with Public Health England, who maintain an overview of infectious diseases in the local area.

Some patients are very vulnerable and need intensive support to get through a demanding course of treatment which lasts at least 6 months. They may have housing or immigration issues, problems with substance misuse or mental health difficulties, so care is tailored to meet their needs. Some will need supervised treatment 3 times a week throughout their treatment. If TB is mismanaged it’s easy for the disease to become drug resistant: this risk can be minimised through attention to detail. This also maximises the chances of the patient going on to recover fully and lead a healthy life.

The vast majority of TB cases in the UK are curable, and this makes the work very satisfying.

Ruth King, TB Specialist Nurse, says “This year we have been able to expand, and we have a fantastic team. I am very proud of the skills and the kindness they demonstrate in their day to day work providing care to patients who often have complex needs. The vast majority of TB cases in the UK are curable, and this makes the work very satisfying. A recent highlight was hearing my name called across the street: an ex- patient come running over to see me. He looked brilliant, having previously been so ill from this potentially devastating disease.”

To learn more about this service, click here.