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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Study casts doubt on GP atenolol use

GPs are failing to care properly for the one in three people in the UK who have allergies because of poor training and a lack of specialist services, a Parliamentary report has found.

The House of Commons health select committee attacked the Government's failure to address the poor state of allergy services in a report published last week.

Five out of six allergy patients should be treated in primary care, the MPs said, and allergy services should be included in the quality and outcomes framework as an incentive to GPs.

But GPs were criticised for 'inadequate knowledge' that made accurate diagnosis 'rare' and condemned for attitudes of 'scepticism, ridicule and disbelief' towards patients with symptoms of allergies.

A survey of 201 allergy sufferers giving evidence to the inquiry found that only 23 per cent had received a correct

diagnosis of allergy when they first visited their GP and 58 per cent were never referred to any type of allergy service.

However, GP allergy experts said the only available training courses were over-subscribed and under-funded, and that 'minimal' existing specialist services were already overwhelmed.

Dr Adrian Morris, a GP in Surrey and clinical assistant in allergy, told the inquiry the lack of NHS allergy services was driving patients into 'the hands of fringe allergy practitioners'.

The report admitted only six NHS allergy clinics existed in England, with none in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, making it impossible 'for doctors to refer patients to

services where there are none'.

Wrexham GP Dr Peter Saul, a hospital practitioner in paediatric asthma and allergy, said referrals had doubled in the last year.

'We've only coped by working harder ­ there just don't seem to be people coming forward to replace the already minimal services,' he said.

The committee rejected claims by Health Minister Dr Stephen Ladyman that the service was coping. He had said: 'People are getting the treatment they need within a reasonable period.'

Select committee recommendations

·Revision of the quality and outcomes framework should include the introduction of incentives to improve allergy care

·Allergy should become part of the basic curriculum

of GP training

·Each PCT should ensure there is one GPwSI in allergy ­ and the DoH should provide funding for this

·GPwSI services should only be set up where specialists are available to underpin standards

·Allergy services should be set up in areas of England where provision is currently non-existent ­ west of Bournemouth and north of Manchester

By Rob Finch

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