Colors: Blue Color

Following the success of the Black Country Chamber Showcase, which saw a sell-out of 37 stands and almost 300 delegates in attendance, the Chamber Annual Exhibition 2017 has just been announced.

Hosted at West Bromwich Albion FC, the Showcase was a fantastic event that featured a Baggies Business Breakfast beforehand, which included an informative talk by Scott-James Eley, Supply Chain Manager – College, Innovation & Culture at HS2 Ltd, who updated the delegates in attendance on the supply chain opportunities available to them. Imran Ishaq, Marketing Analyst at Nant Ltd, commented: “The Showcase event was great value for membership, with amazing networking and lead generation opportunities.”

Following this success, bookings are now being taken for the Black Country Chamber Annual Exhibition, which will be on 28th September at Wolverhampton Racecourse from 9am to 1pm. This is set to be a great event, with more on offer this year, including a manufacturing and international trade section.

Proving itself to the one of the highlights of our annual events calendar, the Exhibition this year will feature approximately 70 stands, nearly 20 more than last year, with the event usually attracting over 500 delegates from the local business community. In essence, it serves as the ideal platform upon which to promote your company and networking with business professional from a variety of sectors.

In addition, this year the Chamber is delighted to have a few more surprises set for the day that will be announced nearer the time.

Following last year’s Exhibition, an exhibitor commented on the quality of the event: “It was a great event to do business and was very well organised. Well done to the Black Country Chamber of Commerce!”

Vying for votes to be the newly formed Metro Mayor of the West Midlands, Labour candidate, Siôn Simon, was busy at his campaign office, the Communication Worker Union office, in Newtown, in Birmingham, to overlook on his campaigners busy on the phone as they gathered his support.

“As Mayor, I will champion our region,” he said. “I would push to take back control-from Westminster-and putting the West Midlands first.”

To make history and be the first ever Mayor, of the region, he said; “There is nowhere in the world that compares to the West Midlands. If we were a nation, we’d be the 58th biggest country in the world and I would bring the united pride in what is the most diverse, multicultural area there is in Britain. And I want to champion that.”

The inaugural Metro Mayor will hold office for three years, with the term length being four years after that. A planned directly elected political post responsible for the metropolitan county – which includes; Birmingham, Wolverhampton Walsall, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Coventry – Simon said; “We have a culture in the West Midlands that is woven with diversity – a key strength here – and as Mayor, I would connect visitors – business and otherwise – to that; whether it be the South East Asian food culture in Ladypool Road for instance, the Chinese Quarter, the newer Eastern European communities, or the number of Caribbean cultural centres that’s away from our central towns and cities. The West Midlands is a fantastic hub for multiculturalism and I for one is hugely proud of that.

"Our region holds an incredibly special place in world; there’s Shakespeare – arguably the most creative figure in history whose body of work is unparalleled - the steam engine - the Lunar men - manufacturers of world-class cars and the spitfire – made in Castle Bromwich, in Birmingham.

The collective geniuses of the West Midlands are game-changers - global and historic leaders. I will see that we celebrate this more.”

A former MP for Birmingham, Erdington, Siôn is one of six candidates for the new post with the election to be held on May 4.

TV star Lorraine Kelly is calling on Britain to get out the aprons, wooden spoons and mixing bowls to help the annual Bake for Heroes campaign smash the million-pound mark.

Supporters of all ages and all around the UK have cooked up more than £850,000 for Help for Heroes (H4H) since the Bake for Heroes fundraiser began in 2009.

Now, as H4H prepares to mark its 10th anniversary in October, Lorraine says this year is the perfect opportunity to rise to the occasion and make the 2017 event the biggest ever.

The ingredients for success are simple – supporters simply sign up for a free fundraising pack through H4H to bake cupcakes, sponges, biscuits, flapjacks or whatever tasty treat they fancy, and sell them off to colleagues, family and friends.

All money raised goes to H4H supporting wounded, injured and sick personnel, veterans and their loved ones.

The Bake for Heroes campaign runs between April 15 and April 30, but supporters can take part whenever it suits them.

Lorraine said: “I’m so proud to be a Patron of Help for Heroes. Every time I sit down and talk to our brave men and women, they tell me how much it means to know the public is behind them and their families throughout their recovery.

I’m determined to help make sure that this vital support is there whenever it is needed. So please join us, it’s very simple to sign up and bake a difference! You could just get some friends together for a cup of tea, have a laugh and have a chat. You really will be helping to rebuild lives and continue the amazing work that Help for Heroes does.”

Bake sales can be as big or small as you want – it could be a tea and cake event at work or school, a coffee and cake morning at the local community centre, or simply an invitation to friends to come round for a slice of cake and a catch-up in return for a donation.

Funds will support the work of Help for Heroes and their four Recovery Centres, which have been purpose-built and support around 4,000 people every year.

Throwing her full support behind Bake for Heroes is Sally Amoore, 62, who lives near Tenby in Wales and has raised around £37,000 for H4H by selling cakes over the past eight years.

Her son, Captain James Amoore, now 32, was seriously injured in Helmand province in Afghanistan after stepping on a Taliban mine in 2009.

James, a platoon commander with 2nd Battalion The Rifles spent four months in hospital, undergoing 15 operations.

With the prospect of more treatment ahead of him, Sally has pledged to do all she can to raise money for H4H.

Sally said: “James should have been a triple amputee, but he somehow managed to keep all of his limbs.

“He is among 66,000 ex-military personnel who will need support to deal with life-changing injuries and illnesses.

“Without charities like Help for Heroes, these brave men and women who we ask so much of would never get the support they deserve and so badly need.

“These men and women look strong and capable, but behind the brave façade, they face daily challenges. For some, the first challenge of the day is to fit their prosthetic legs or arms, for others it may even be battling their anxiety of leaving the house.

“As the public and media focus is no longer on Afghanistan or Iraq, it is critical we maintain support for them for years and years to come.

“I love Bake for Heroes because it’s something that everyone can take part in and do their bit. It’s not a huge effort to bake a cake! It’s just a very friendly and fun way of raising a bit of money for a good cause.”

Free health checks are being offered in the City of Wolverhampton as part of Residents Week (April 1-7). Go along and get blood pressure, height, weight, cholesterol and sugar level readings, as well as lifestyle information on smoking, increasing physical activity, reducing alcohol and healthy eating.

The sessions are being run by the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Healthy Lifestyles Team

Councillor Paul Sweet, Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: “The Healthy Lifestyles Team have a key role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of people living in our city.

“I would encourage anyone who wants to get in shape to take this opportunity to arrange a health check with a member of the Healthy Lifestyles Team and take the first steps towards improving their health and wellbeing.”

Health checks are available on the dates below, at venues across the city:

Friday, April 7 (10am and 2pm) Mander Centre Upper Mall, next to New Look.

Free health advice sessions are also on offer on the dates below at venues across the city:

Tuesday, April 4 (10am and 1pm) Ashmore Park Health Centre, Griffiths Drive.

Tuesday, April 4 (4pm and 7pm) Wolverhampton Racecourse, Gorsebrook Road, WV6 0PE.

Wednesday, April 5 (10am and noon) Bilston Library, Mount Pleasant, WV14 7LU.

Thursday, April 6 (9am and 5pm) New Cross Hospital, East Entrance, Wolverhampton Road, Heath Town, WV10 0QP.

A team of Ophthalmology Consultants at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, including eye doctor Alastair Denniston and his blind brother, Richard Denniston, are ditching their scrubs in favour of cycling vests and helmets to cycle 100 miles in one day at Velo Birmingham, to raise money for the official hospital Charity.

Alastair, an Ophthalmology Consultant who has worked at QEHB for five years, is one of five cycling enthusiasts from the Ophthalmology department who will join QEHB Charity’s team at Velo Birmingham. His career choice was inspired from a young age by his brother, Richard, who has been blind since shortly after birth and who will join Alastair and his colleagues on the ride.

Alastair said: “I have always been very aware of how precious sight is. To train to be an Ophthalmologist is a long road, but it is definitely worth it. I get to help save people’s sight on a daily basis – how good is that!”

The 42-year-old, who lives in Harborne, Birmingham, with his wife Sarah and two sons Arran and Ewan, helps to diagnose disease and provide treatment for patients who have problems with their eye sight.He explained: “Like other parts of medicine, the job is to first be a detective and then to provide the treatment.

We have to ‘join the dots’ connecting the patient’s symptoms with the subtle changes that may be occurring in the eye. Because so much of the eye is transparent, we can see right into it. Thanks to QEHB Charity we now have such high resolution equipment that we can see down to a thousandth of a millimetre within the eye. This state-of-the-art equipment means we can detect disease earlier and treat people with confidence.”

Along with his brother, Alastair will be joined by staff from the Ophthalmology department at QEHB, including Tim Matthews, Andrew Jacks, Simon Dulku and Mike Burdon, who will all join 15,000 thousand others, many of whom are raising money for QEHB Charity, at Velo Birmingham; a 100-mile closed-road bicycle race that is coming to the second city on Saturday 24 September.

Alastair said: “We have a wonderful eye department at QEHB – everyone is very committed. Over the last few years QEHB Charity has helped us buy £300,000 of the most advanced laser and imaging equipment to help us care for patients. We are committed to working with the Charity to raise money so that we can continue to provide world-class treatment here in Birmingham.”


To sponsor the Ophthalmology team, please go to

The Government has announced that the National Living Wage will go up, from £7.20 per hour, to £7.50 with the current National Minimum Wage (NMW) for those under the age of 25 still applies.

Introduced in 2016, the rate, which changes every April, is:

  • £7.50 per hour - 25 yrs old and over
  • £7.05 per hour - 21-24 yrs old
  • £5.60 per hour - 18-20 yrs old
  • £4.05 per hour - 16-17 yrs old
  • £3.50 for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over who are in the first year of apprenticeship.
The new pay rate will only affect someone's pay from the first full pay reference period after that date.

For example:

If the Pay Reference Period starts on the 19 March - 19 April- the pay between the 1 April - 18 April will be based on the NMW rates- The allocated pay from the 19 April - 19 May would be at the new NLW rate because this is the first full pay reference period after the 1 April.

The same rules apply when a monthly paid employee reaches the age of 25. For example if the employees birthday falls on the 25 May and the next pay reference period starts on 10 June, the employee is entitled to receive the NLW pay rate on the 10 June and not their birthday.

There are a number of people who are not entitled to the NMW/NLW.

  • Self-employed people.
  • Volunteers or voluntary workers.
  • Company directors.
  • Family members, or people who live in the family home of the employer who undertake household tasks.
All other workers including pieceworkers, home workers, agency workers, commission workers, part-time workers and casual workers must receive at least the NMW.


WV Living has unveiled exciting designs of its first houses to be built in the City of Wolverhampton.

The seven types of homes – The Pelham, The Bantock, The Moseley, The Wightwick, The Newbolt, The Hayward and The Leveson – have been named after popular landmarks and famous people associated with the city.

They will be showcased at the City Housing Fair, at Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Lichfield Street, WV1 1DU, on Sunday, April 2, between 11am and 3.30pm.

Work on the first phase of WV Living homes is set to start this summer, with planning permission now granted for 52 units, including 13 affordable homes, on the site of the former Danesmore School.

Planning applications have also been submitted for 34 units on the former Ettingshall School site; ten affordable homes on the nearby Sweetbriar Road site; and 40 units, including ten affordable homes, on the former Prouds Lane Leisure Centre site.

The names of the new developments have been chosen to reflect connections to the local area.

The former Danesmore School site will be called ‘Danesmore Pastures’, the former Ettingshall School site will be branded ‘Sweet Briary’, and the Prouds Lane former Leisure Centre site will be called ‘Peascroft’.

A mixture of 4-bedroom, 3-bedroom and 2-bedroom houses, and 2-bedroom flats will be built across the sites.

Councillor Peter Bilson, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for City Housing and Assets, said: “WV Living has never been needed more – and these are tremendously exciting times.

“The designs that have been created will provide top quality homes for the city and developments with strong local links, which residents can be proud of.

“There is a strong belief that a council-owned housing company is both viable and offers the best outcomes for the council in terms of both strategic housing and income generation.

“WV Living has plans for almost 400 homes to be built in the next two years. This will support the overall house building programme in the City of Wolverhampton and we hope people will love their WV Living homes.”

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce have launched a new ‘Mayoral toolkit’ – providing businesses with guidance and resources for engaging their workforce with the West Midlands Mayor election.

‘West Midlands Mayor: Your Toolkit’ contains easy to use content, images, posters and ideas for how businesses can raise awareness of the election among their staff. It also includes a simple Q&A on common questions about the West Midlands Mayor.

The toolkit is non-partisan and is aimed at raising awareness and encouraging people to vote in this important election, which takes place on Thursday 4 May. The toolkit can be found here.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce said: “The West Midlands Mayor will be a high-profile voice that will shout loudly for the region on a local, national and international level.

“However, for them to be effective, local citizens need to know this election is taking place and have their say on who best represents them by actually turning out to vote.

“The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce has nearly 2,700 members employing over 175,000 people. We want to play our part in spreading the word about this crucial election.

“Many of the steps suggested in this toolkit are really simple but effective: for instance, sending calendar invitations to all employees to remind them to register to vote and take part on the day.

“I would urge everyone reading this article to take up this call to action and become a champion for raising awareness of this election among your colleagues. Take a look, download the toolkit today and take part.”

Severn Trent has launched a new volunteering programme for all its employees which aims to make a real difference to the communities in which it operates.

The Community Champions project aims to clean up to 40 kilometres of rivers in the Severn Trent region, which stretches across the Midlands and into mid-Wales.

Working alongside its partner charities, The Canals & River Trust, Waterside Care, the Severn Rivers Trust and the Trent Rivers Trust volunteers have already been out and about cutting back vegetation and helping clear debris from rivers.

Paul Evans, community communications lead, says: “Employees are given two annual volunteering days of their choice to help out in their local communities, with more than 800 people signing up in the first month, meaning we can send teams out where they’re really needed.

“Our people are clearly passionate about volunteering and supporting local communities. Not only does this programme allow our employees to do this, but it’s also key to building great relationships with key partners and delivering very real environmental and business benefits.”

This month saw Severn Trent, which is currently carrying out a £60 million waste and water improvement scheme in Newark, team up with BNMAlliance to clear a stretch of the River Trent in the town.

Wayne Ball, volunteer development coordinator for the Canal and River Trust, said: “The volunteers did a fantastic job and we’re really grateful for all their hard work. As a charity, the support they’ve given us is invaluable and really helps in our efforts to make the river a more attractive, welcoming place for the local community.”

In addition to the general maintenance work, the Community Champions will be helping with tasks such as water quality testing, invertebrate surveys, and vegetation management and erosion control.

As well as the new programme, Severn Trent also supports WaterAid and Comic Relief. This year, volunteers from the company took donation calls for Red Nose Day helping raise record breaking amounts for the charity.

Ready, steady ...grow! Gardeners and would-be gardeners are being invited to kick-start their gardening year with fun green-fingered gardening activities at the Big Dig Food Growing Event (on national Big Dig Day), at Martineau Gardens on Saturday 22 April, from 2pm – 4pm. The Community Garden in Edgbaston, Birmingham  is hosting the free event to encourage people to grow their own food, no matter how big or small their grow space is or how much or how little experience they have.

The event will include drop-in food growing workshops to inspire even the most reluctant gardeners to don their gardening gloves. Activities include hands-on vegetable growing techniques and seed bombing. There will be plant and compost sales plus tea and homemade cake will be on offer.   

Caroline Hutton, Director of Martineau Gardens, explains why the charity is hosting the event: “We want to inspire people to make a move towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Growing your own food is a step in the right direction. It’s great fun, low cost and you get to eat delicious food.”

Martineau Gardens, just two miles from Birmingham city centre, is a green oasis teeming with wildlife and is looked after by volunteers, many of whom have mental health issues and learning disabilities. Hundreds of school children visit the Gardens to learn about science and environmental issues. Every year Birmingham people visit the gardens to explore its woodland, glass houses, formal garden, orchard, demonstration food growing areas, wildflower meadow, pond and wildlife area with SLINC status.

Blenheim Palace has been voted Attraction of the Year by the leading UK travel trade association.

The Oxfordshire stately home, which celebrates its 30th anniversary as a UNESCO World Heritage Site this year, was awarded the title by UKinbound, which represents 370 of the country's tourism businesses.

The awards ceremony took place during the association's 40th anniversary Annual Convention at the Plymouth Guildhall.

The winners were chosen by an independent panel of industry experts consisting of David Cianfarani, former chairman of UKinbound, Michael Hirst, chairman of the Business Visits and Events Partnership, and Terri Scriven, head of travel at Google.

“It's a great honour to have been presented with this award by an association which represents the UK's leading tourism businesses,” said Blenheim Palace's Chief Executive Dominic Hare.

“The overseas tourism sector is a rapidly growing and developing market and we recognise its importance, not just to us but more importantly to the economy of both our local area and of the UK as a whole.

“We believe there are still many untapped markets beyond our shores and we will be working with other tourism groups and the government to try and ensure we are able to welcome them,” he added.

UKinbound is one of the leading trade associations and the only one which focuses solely on the interests of the UK's inbound tourism sector.

Deirdre Wells OBE, CEO UKinbound, commented: “Our awards recognise the ongoing commitment and contribution of our members to the UK inbound tourism sector.

“In spite of the challenges faced in 2016, our members continue to excel in every field of the travel, tourism and hospitality sectors, and we are delighted to acknowledge a number of their outstanding performances.”

Built in the early 18th century to celebrate Britain's victory over the French in the War of the Spanish Succession, Blenheim Palace is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.

Less than twenty-four hours after celebrating its inaugural Birmingham-Vienna service, German low-cost carrier Eurowings, has announced it will launch another new route from Birmingham to Salzburg in December.

Already operating Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Vienna, the new Salzburg flight will operate twice weekly from the 9th December, catering for the ski community and city breakers.

All services are planned with an A320 aircraft configured to 174 seats.William Pearson, Aviation Director for Birmingham Airport, said, “It’s fantastic to see Eurowings expanding its list of routes from Birmingham Airport so rapidly.

“Salzburg is a great ski destination but also a great city break city which we are sure will make this route very popular indeed with our passengers all year round.”

Eurowings is headquartered in Cologne and serves a network of domestic and European destinations as well as some long-haul routes.

Ivan Orec, Manager Network Development & Airport Relations for Eurowings said: “We are pleased to add a new Salzburg route to our Birmingham schedule, which will operate twice weekly, every Wednesday and Saturday, starting from the beginning of December.

“We are also looking forward to bringing more ski passengers to Salzburg and offer them free of charge transport of their ski equipment.”

The Austrian city of Salzburg is most famous for being the home of Mozart and The Sound of Music. The Old Town is burrowed below steep hills and stands beside the Salzach River. The formidable cliff top fortress is surrounded below by buildings with graceful domes and spires and the mountains beyond give a stunning city backdrop. Visitors will find a growing arts scene, fantastic food, beautifully manicured parks, quiet side streets and strong classical music traditions.

To celebrate the return of the Natural History Museum’s 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition Wolverhampton Art Gallery has launched a competition to find the city’s best wildlife shots.

Talented photographers and filmmakers can now enter their work - and the winners will see their images and footage on the Lichfield Street gallery walls as part of a series of events to celebrate the exhibition.

Last year Wolverhampton Art Gallery hosted the touring show, which attracted thousands of visitors keen to see some of the most incredible images of the natural world’s most astonishing sights.

The critically acclaimed 52nd exhibition, featuring awe-inspiring images of fascinating animal behaviour and breathtaking landscapes, runs from July 15 to October 8 in the City of Wolverhampton.

Councillor John Reynolds, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “The exhibition attracted a great response last year and we are really looking forward to seeing the Natural History Museum’s 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

“To celebrate it we are on the hunt for talented, homegrown City of Wolverhampton photographers of all ages to submit their best wildlife images or short films taken in and around the city. So, get snapping and send us your images and footage.”

Photographers or film-makers entering the competition must have a WV postcode and are encouraged to capture wildlife photos in and around the City of Wolverhampton.

Winners will be announced at the official launch of the exhibition on Saturday, July 22, and prizes include afternoon tea at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and free entrance to the Natural History Museum’s 52nd Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition.

The competition is open to anyone living, working or studying in a WV postcode.

Photography entrants must be aged five and above and will be split into three categories 5 to 11, 12 to 18, and over 18s. A winner will be picked from each category.

Film entrants must be aged five and above – and there will be one winner selected.

All images and film must be the work of the person submitting them, must not have been published anywhere else, and be available until the close of the exhibition.

Sandwell museums open their doors to visitors again, with a great programme of events, exhibitions, family activities and school holiday fun throughout the year.

After a winter of deep cleaning, decorating, working on displays, organising and planning, Sandwell museums staff are all set for the new season.

Regular groups and pre-booked visits and activities have continued at museums during the winter months, but April is the month things really get going again.

As well as the varied programme, there are regular activities and groups for all ages to get involved with.

Entrance is FREE but there may be a small charge for some of the activities on offer.

Following the winter work, one of the rooms at Oak House, West Bromwich, is now a parlour again, as inventories show it was in the 1680s complete with a bed for guests.

There’s a new exhibition of clothes from the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery, along with some lovely photos of Sandwell high streets down the years.

Meanwhile at Haden Hill House, Cradley Heath, the library has had a makeover.

Opening times are as follows:

  • Oak House, West Bromwich: house, grounds and visitor centre and playground – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays, 2pm-5pm
  • Haden Hill House, Cradley Heath – Thursdays and Fridays, 10am-5pm, Saturdays and Sundays, 2pm-6pm (Open from Thursday 6 April)
  • Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery – Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11am-4pm, Saturdays, 2pm-5pm
  • Manor House, West Bromwich – open for special events and activities, also open for free guided tours on Sundays from 30 July until 10 September
  • Galton Valley Pumping Station, Smethwick – monthly Saturday open days

Residents have pitched in to make Haringey even greener, helping the council plant new trees at three of the borough’s parks.

Children, “Friends of” groups and Cabinet member for Environment Cllr Peray Ahmet all turned out to plant the trees, after Haringey applied for a £21,800 grant from the Greater London Authority.

It follows a season of planting that has seen more than 200 new trees arrive in Haringey.

With the latest GLA funds, Downhills Park, Bruce Castle Park and Markfield Park shared 45 trees between them, to increase shade and help deal with frequent heavy rain. For the planting, which finished on Saturday, the council provided gloves and tools for volunteers – although some of the little ones brought their own equipment, including tiny beach spades.

There are 50 more being planted on residential streets in N17 and N15, in areas identified by the council and community group Tottenham Trees as having low tree cover.

Cllr Ahmet, who was at Downhills Park, said: “We had a brilliant day planting new trees, with lots of people volunteering their time and getting stuck in. As well as being a great event for the community, the trees are another sign that we are committed to making Haringey greener. We have fantastic parks across the borough and these new trees are the perfect addition, right in time for spring.”

In total, the council has planted around 210 new trees this season using the GLA money, highways project funds and private sponsorship.

There is also a separate community tree plant scheme run by charity Groundwork London, which is planting 150 small trees at Lordship Recreation Ground. Around 50 locals have teamed up to plant the trees, which include apple, medlar and Alder buckthorn. The young trees are already growing well and the planting scheme is expected to be finished mid-April.

In a world-first, Public Health England (PHE) in the West Midlands is using Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) to identify different strains of tuberculosis.

This is the first time that WGS has been used as a diagnostic solution for managing a disease on this scale anywhere in the world. This builds on WGS based services for public health investigation of infectious diseases, which offer the opportunities for faster, cheaper and more accurate diagnostics than other testing methods.

The technique, developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford and carried out at PHE’s laboratory in Birmingham, allows faster and more accurate diagnoses, meaning patients can be treated with precisely the right medication more quickly. Where previously it could take up to a month to confirm a diagnosis of TB, confirm the treatment choices and to detect spread between cases; this can now be done in just over a week by at the Birmingham lab. This slows the spread of the disease and boosts the fight against anti-microbial resistance (AMR).

Some strains of TB are called ‘drug resistant’ which means they need treating differently to conventional types. With WGS diagnosis, patients who have a strain of TB which is resistant to specific drugs will receive the right medication from the start of their treatment. This will shorten the time that patients are infectious and so stop the spread and reduce the prevalence of drug-resistant TB and costs to NHS in hospital care.

Dr Grace Smith, PHE Interim Director National Mycobacterial Reference Service, National Infection Service (based at the Birmingham laboratory), said: “The use of whole genome sequencing to diagnose, detect drug resistance and very accurately type TB is a world first for any disease on this scale. By working closely with our partners, we are now able to use cutting edge science to effectively treat these patients with the right medicines quickly. We are immensely proud of the contribution this makes to the prospects of better treatment of TB globally. This approach will also increasingly be used for many other infectious diseases. Our ambition is to achieve this as quickly as possible so many infections can be better diagnosed and treated.”

Dr Martin Dedicoat, TB clinical lead for Birmingham and Solihull (Heart of England Foundation Trust), said: “Whole genome sequencing for TB means quicker more accurate diagnosis for patients. It has helped patients start appropriate treatment within days as opposed to weeks. Also timely identification of TB transmission is helping safe guard the public."

Dr Nic Coetzee, TB lead Consultant in Communicable Disease Control for PHE West Midlands, said: “The number of cases of TB in England has declined by 30% over the last four years; with 5,758 confirmed cases in 2015 compared to 8,280 in 2011 nationally, while the West Midlands saw 708 cases in 2015 compared to 1,004 in 2011. Despite this downward trend, England still has one of the highest rates of TB in Western Europe, and the West Midlands region has the second highest rate of TB in the country at 12.3 cases per 100,000 head of population – with London being highest at a rate of 26.2 cases per 100,000.

“PHE and NHS England are working with local and national partners to continue this decrease by actively implementing the Collaborative TB Strategy for England. This will contribute to the World Health Organization’s goal of eliminating TB as a public health problem by 2035. There is significant variation in rates of TB in England, depending on population characteristics, socioeconomic factors and level of local risk. Certain groups are disproportionately affected including some migrant groups, people who misuse alcohol or drugs, people who are homeless and those with prison histories. In the West Midlands we have been working with local prisons and homeless charities to help earlier diagnosis and treatment of people at greater risk.”

PHE is already pioneering the development and early use of WGS to enable the investigation and control of multiple infectious diseases.  In future, the application of WGS in other conditions will allow us to test and treat patients at the bed side, rather than needing to wait days and sometimes weeks for results. The implementation of this technology will contribute to achieving the Government’s ambition of sequencing 100,000 genomes, a project which will ultimately allow us to better understand major diseases and how to treat them.