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Independents' Day

PCTs failing to commission allergy care

Primary care trusts are ignoring a Government directive to commission new services for allergy care, a House of Lords inquiry has heard.

Not a single PCT has implemented guidance aimed at plugging the desperate shortages in services for allergy, a leading Department of Health official admitted.

Earlier this year GPs warned new services would not be commissioned unless the Government committed extra resources, writes Daniel Cressey.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Martin Marshall suggested GPs would need to become more effective at managing allergy as trusts did not seem to have the capacity to improve specialist services.

In reply to a question

about whether any PCTs had commissioned allergy services, Professor Marshall told peers: 'To our knowledge, not yet. Whether PCTs have the capacity or capability at the moment to undertake commissioning of the quality that we would like them to undertake is, I think, questionable.'

The Government appears to hope GPs can pick up the slack, with proposals submitted to NICE for new guidance on allergy management.

When the department released its review of allergy services earlier this year, it called on PCTs to plug gaps with local commissioning, while ignoring calls for extra funding.

But the scale of the problem is apparent from newly published evidence to the inquiry. In its submission, the Government said managing allergy cost the NHS £1bn per year and took up 11 per cent of the drug budget.

Dr Samantha Walker, co-chair of the Primary Care Allergy Network, said the failure of PCTs to commission was completely predictable. 'It doesn't surprise me at all. When the report came out it was "oh, that's that then".'

She added: 'I don't think the Government will give any cash. If we are going to do anything about allergy services it will be through other routes.'

Dr Hilary Napier, a GP in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, said: 'It's down to GPs until there's more money out there, and I'm not sure there ever

will be.'

The National Allergy Strategy Group, in its evidence to the inquiry, warned patients were being pushed into 'unregulated and sometimes dangerous' private practice.

'A very large number of people are being treated without a correct diagnosis or in the wrong way,' it said.

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