Allergy sufferers failed by healthcare services

More than 20 million people in the UK are believed to be suffering from conditions caused by allergies, and are being let down by a severe lack of allergy specialists and GPs failing to diagnose the allergies, doctors have warned.

A government review of allergy services published in July has called for healthcare commissioners to establish levels of need for services for allergy, for more training places to be created for allergists, and for consideration to be given to creating national guidelines for the treatment and referral of allergy cases.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the patient group Allergy UK has said there are only 33 allergy specialists in the country, and that GPs are not trained in diagnosing allergic causes of disease.

The Department of Health review found that about one-third of the population have some form of allergy at some point in their lives, and there were 70,000 admissions to hospital for asthma in 2004.

Care services minister Ivan Lewis said: “We need to ensure that GPs and others in primary care have clinical knowledge and support systems to spot allergies in the early stages, so that an effective management plan can be offered from the start.”

But Dr Pamela Ewan, secretary to the RCP working party report on allergies, said she was disappointed the review had not called for more central funding to help tackle the problem.

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