Tuberculosis

Health written question – answered on 12th February 2004.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Health)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) what departmental guidance he has issued on the control of tuberculosis at (a) ports and (b) airports;

(2) what procedures for the screening of immigrants for pulmonary tuberculosis (a) are carried out and (b) he plans to implement.

Photo of Miss Melanie Johnson Miss Melanie Johnson Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

Immigration officers are able to refer prospective entrants to the United Kingdom to medical inspectors at UK ports and airports. Long-standing policy is that any person subject to immigration control who:

mentions health or medical treatment as a reason for coming to the United Kingdom, or appears unwell; or is seeking leave to enter the United Kingdom for six months or more and is at high risk of having been exposed to tuberculosis (TB) should be referred by the immigration officer to a medical inspector at the port or airport.

There are three x-ray machines at Heathrow airport and one at Gatwick airport, so that chest x-rays for TB can be carried out there on people referred for medical inspection who are likely to be at high risk of having been exposed to TB. Medical inspectors working at ports of entry are asked to pass details of those that they have examined to the primary care trust (PCT) at their destination address. This enables PCTs to follow up any cases of infection which have been identified, and arrange any necessary testing which it is not possible to undertake at the ports. Anyone who is lawfully in the UK and has TB is able to receive free treatment for it from the national health service.

The Cabinet Office is currently co-ordinating work between relevant Government Departments, including the Department of Health, to review imported infections and immigration. The review aims to establish the facts about the-impact of immigration on public health and NHS expenditure, consider all relevant issues including health screening and propose solutions should action be required. No decisions have been taken yet.

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