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Home Topics Infectious Diseases Infections A-Z Tuberculosis (TB) UK TB Surveillance Data

UK TB Surveillance Data

TB surveillance aims to provide detailed information to inform the prevention and control of TB.  This page describes the aims of TB surveillance and a brief history of TB surveillance in the UK.


Data tables and graphs showing the latest data from the various surveillance sources can be accessed using the links on the left. 


Enhanced TB surveillance provides the most comprehensive, timely and accurate information on TB incidence in the UK. In 2012, 8751 cases of TB were reported in the UK, an annual incidence rate of 13.9 cases per 100,000 population.


Aims of TB surveillance

TB surveillance in the UK is based on a number of information sources and involves ongoing data collection, analysis and dissemination of information for use in public health.

Good surveillance at local, regional, and national level is essential to detect outbreaks and other TB related incidents; guide immediate action, such as contact tracing; measure the incidence and trends of TB occurrence and levels of TB drug resistance; identify population subgroups at higher risk; and inform planning, implementation and evaluation of TB programs and policies.

History of TB surveillance in the UK

All forms of TB in England and Wales are statutorily notifiable by the physician making or suspecting the diagnosis under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984. It first became a legal requirement to notify cases of TB in 1913; TB is also legally notifiable in Northern Ireland and Scotland under similar legislation.  While the statutory Notifications of Infectious Diseases system (NOIDs) continues to play a useful role in the surveillance of TB locally, the limited information collected through this system means that trends within subgroups of the population cannot be monitored. 

The first national TB survey for England and Wales was undertaken in 1965 by the British Tuberculosis Association and was repeated in 1971. In 1978/79 the Medical Research Council Tuberculosis and Chest Diseases Group included ethnic group for the first time in a national survey. In 1983, the British Thoracic Society began five-yearly national TB surveys that included data on anti-TB drug resistance. Drug susceptibility data from the 1993 survey formed the basis for the United Kingdom Mycobacterial Surveillance Network (MycobNet) surveillance system, which since 1994 has collected data on mycobacterial isolates from a network of specialist reference laboratories across the UK.

By 1998, the increasing incidence of TB, affecting particular subgroups within the population, led to the introduction of Enhanced Tuberculosis Surveillance (ETS). The last national TB survey of 1998 was used to pilot the methodology for ETS, which began in England and Wales on 1 January 1999 and in the following year in Northern Ireland.  A similar system, Enhanced Surveillance of Mycobacterial Infections (ESMI), began in Scotland in 2000.

In response to an increase in TB among cattle herds, an enhanced system for the surveillance of M. bovis in humans began in 1999 to complement MycobNet and provide a clearer understanding of the epidemiology of TB caused by M. bovis.