Exclusive: Access to allergy services 'nothing less than appalling'

Call to train GPs to deal with 90% of allergy patients.

Half of GPs do not have access to a local specialist allergy service, a survey by GP has revealed.

Of 215 GPs who responded to the survey, only half said they had a local specialist service.

For 57 per cent of GPs, their nearest allergy service is more than 30 minutes' travel away and for 32 per cent it is over an hour away.

Only 16 per cent of GPs said the service was under 15 minutes travel.

Leicestershire GP Dr Dermot Ryan, who has an interest in allergy, said that access to allergy services in the UK was 'nothing less than appalling'.

'The UK and the rest of the world are facing annual year-on-year increases in diagnoses of allergic disease, but people are not being well served by the NHS,' he said.

'There are still only 30 full-time allergy specialists in the UK. In some other European countries there is one allergy specialist for every 10,000-12,000 people.'

He said part of the solution to the lack of secondary care provision was to make skin prick testing available in primary care.

'Practices may have access to specialist IgE tests, but many have no access to skin-prick tests,' he said.

'But there is expense in terms of the time it takes to carry out skin prick testing and so it needs to be properly funded.'

He said that GPs' training in allergy could also be improved. 'It takes a long time to train a secondary care allergy specialist, but GPs could be trained to deal with 80-90 per cent of patients with allergies.'

He also argued that allergy management needs to be included in the QOF.

'One thing that could be included would be annual review of all patients with anaphylaxis who are receiving EpiPens,' he said. 'It would not involve a huge amount of work and would act as a spur to improving understanding of allergies.'

Dr Ryan said that part of the reason allergy care had been neglected was that allergic diseases were not yet taken seriously enough by the DoH.


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