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Commun Dis Public Health. 2003 Jun;6(2):133-8.

Delay in starting treatment for tuberculosis in east London.

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Newham Healthcare NHS Trust, Newham General Hospital, Glen Road, Plaistow, London E13 8RU.


In the United Kingdom there is little information about the delay between the onset of symptoms in patients with tuberculosis and the time it takes for them to be correctly diagnosed and treatment started. We have examined the duration and possible causes of such delay in our own district. The records of 93 patients were examined. Total delay in starting treatment was estimated as the time from the start of symptoms to commencement of chemotherapy. Patient delays were estimated from the time between the start of symptoms to the time taken to first attend their general practitioner (GP) with symptoms. Healthcare system delays were estimated from the interval between first being assessed by their GP and starting anti-tuberculosis treatment. Median total delay was 18 weeks (0-219). The time when patients first presented to their GP was determined for 64 patients: median patient delay was then estimated as nine weeks (range 0-104 weeks), and median healthcare delay five weeks, with a very wide range (0.5-210). Prolonged delay was seen in three patients with cervical lymph node disease. Patient delay was significantly longer than healthcare system delay (p = 0.019). Pulmonary disease was associated with shorter total delay in starting treatment compared with extra-pulmonary disease (p = 0.035). In patients with tuberculosis there were considerable delays in first presentation to medical services, in diagnosis and in starting treatment. Patient delays were longer than healthcare system delays. There is a need to improve awareness of the symptoms of tuberculosis both on the part of the general population and of health professionals, especially in areas of high incidence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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