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Primary care 'failing allergy patients'

Primary care is failing allergy patients because of a dearth of specialist provision and poor GP training, GPs believe.

Research conducted by primary care researchers among 500 GPs nationwide revealed widespread frustration over allergy care – which now takes up 8 per cent of GP consultations.

The survey showed only one in four GPs had access to a local allergy clinic, with median access times of seven days for emergencies and 144 days for routine appointments.

Most GPs felt patients were poorly served by primary care and nearly two-thirds felt service was poor in secondary care, results published in this month's Clinical and Experimental Allergy showed.

More than four out of five GPs felt access to specialists was difficult and that the overall allergy service provided by the NHS was poor.

Only 4 per cent of the 240 GPs who responded could offer skin prick testing in their practice, but 65 per cent had access to serum specific IgE (RAST) testing.

Study co-author Professor Aziz Sheikh said: 'This is set against a significant upward trend in the burden of allergic disease. Most GPs have received very little training on allergy subjects – postgraduate training is almost non-existent.'

Professor Sheikh, who is professor of primary care research and development at the University of Edinburgh and is between GP posts, said: 'Often GPs find they have nowhere to refer to – the research has shown there is one allergy consultant post for two million people.

'As a result a lot of patients get frustrated and look for answers elsewhere – maybe through complementary and alternative medicine which may not be based on good science.'

He added: 'I'm pleased that asthma is in the new GMS contract, but there has been no recognition of other allergic disease.

'We need a rethink across the board. We need a significant investment in more consultant posts, more GPs with special interests in allergies as well as other training for GPs and nurses.'

By Rob Finch

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