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Allergy services ‘still not meeting GPs’ needs’

By Lilian Anekwe

There is still a dire shortage of specialist allergy services to help GPs managing patients with allergy, according to a wide-ranging report published today.

It concludes that allergy services in much of the UK are inadequate and there is a wide gap between the number of patients in need of specialist services and the number of specialists centres available.

Services in the UK are branded as ‘a poor relation' in allergy care compared with the rest of Europe.

The Royal College of Physicians, Royal College of Pathologists and the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology jointly commissioned the report to gauge the progress made since a damning 2007 investigation by the House of Lords Science and Technology committee criticised the paucity of allergy services and recommended an increase in allergists and allergy centres to improve care and reduce geographical inequalities.

But three years on it states, ‘although there has been some very limited progress in some areas, in the majority of areas, including clinical services, it has been extremely slow or non-existent.'

A repeat survey of 500 GPs, published by primary care researchers earlier this year, reported no perceived improvement in access to specialist service provision, due to lack of investment in allergy services and little access to immunotherapy.

Recommendations from the report include:

• Action from the Department of Health, primary care organisations and commissioners to provide cost-effective improvements in allergy care

• Better allergy services and more allergy specialists.

• Incorporation of allergy indicators into Quality and Outcomes Framework.

• A commitment to ensure allergy services are protected from financial cuts.

Dr Bill Egner, a consultant in immunology at the Borthern General Hospital in Sheffied and secretary to the report working party, said: ‘This report offers an ideal opportunity to engage patients and physicians in positive action to improve services with the support of Government.

‘We can do better and allergy services can still improve despite the current financial climate. A coalition of partners from patients to specialists are ready and willing, they merely need appropriate facilitation of clinical leadership and intelligent direction from the Department of Health and Commissioners to make it a reality.'

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