Letter: System underestimates allergic disease burden

You recently featured a story on the lack of allergy services in the UK (GP, 17 April). There is another issue that I would like to highlight.

As there are so few specialist allergy services in the UK, and relatively few patients are therefore referred for allergic problems, the true prevalence and burden of these diseases remains hidden.

This is due to the fact that many patients with allergic problems are referred to organ-based specialists, and therefore their hospital episodes are coded incorrectly.

So for example, a child with asthma, allergic rhinitis and food allergy, will be referred to a general paediatrician, an ENT surgeon and a gastroenterologist, and the PCT will be charged for these episodes, instead of one single episode for an 'allergy consultation'.

As the word 'allergy' will not appear in the hospital episode statistics, the true prevalence and burden of allergic disease remains hidden, the PCT and the commissioners continue under the false impression that allergic disease prevalence is low, and the problem of an under-resourced service for nearly a third of the population is perpetuated.

Dr Mark Levy, GP, London; and editor, Primary Care Respiratory Journal

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