Emma Thompson reveals Whittington doctors treated son Tindy for TB
Hollywood actress Emma Thompson has urged the government to tackle the “Dickensian” levels of Tuberculosis (TB) in London - after she revealed doctors who work at the Whittington treated her son for the disease.
Ms Thompson, of West Hampstead, issued the warning as she and adopted son Tindyebwa “Tindy” Agaba, officially opened a new specialist TB centre at the Whittington Hospital, Archway.
Mr Agaba was treated for the disease at University College London Hospital in Bloomsbury three years ago by doctors now working at the £1million TB South Hub clinic.
Staff have dealt with nearly 2,000 visits to the centre since it first opened in April.
Ms Thompson, 55, said: “When Tindy came home and said ‘I have TB’, we were completely gobsmacked.
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“His doctor Helen Booth was so calm and so clear. She must have thought we would be more alarmed than we were, but we are used to trauma in our family.”
Consultant Dr Booth is now the clinical lead for the Whittington’s TB clinic, which offers a walk-in service two days a week and has extended opening hours.
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Nearly 350 people have attended drop-in appointments to be tested for the disease since the centre opened.
Patients can also self-refer themselves for an appointment, which 83 people have done since April, and the clinic will call in those who have been in contact with a TB patient for testing.
The centre has so far diagnosed 75 cases of TB, a disease closely linked with deprivation.
Latest figures for 2014 show that London has one of the highest rates of TB than any other western city, with 35.5 cases for every 100,000 people - down from 42 cases per 100,000 in 2013.
The rates were described as “alarming” by Ms Thompson, who said in a speech to staff and guests at the opening on Wednesday (October 8): “If Charles Dickens came back he wouldn’t think anything had changed.”
She later told the Ham&High: “Of course, I knew it was around but to find out that the rates of infection are so high, that people are dying of the disease when treatment is possible, it is distressing.
“The department of health need to take this on board. It’s a no-brainer.”
Human rights activist Mr Agaba contracted the disease while working with former combatants in Liberian ghettos.
Following his return to England, he began suffering night sweats - one of the typical symptoms of TB - but recovered after a six-month course of antibiotics, which required him to take nine tablets a day.
“Dr Booth made us feel comfortable and assured us it was going to work and I was going to be fine,” he said.
Dr Booth said: “This new centre is playing a vital role in addressing the problem of TB within London.
“If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms, such as having a cough for more than three weeks, night sweats, or coughing up blood, then come to see us.”