Allergies - how sympathetic or knowledgeable are your GP and NHS?

Added on 02 Nov, 2004 . There are .

MP's have hit out at the NHS for their lack of knowledge and skills in detecting and treating allergies.

A Health Select Committee report has said that care for allergies in England is a lottery with a lack of specialists, poor access to services, and only six full time specialist allergy centres.

It is reported that approximately 15 million people suffer from allergies in the UK, which accounts for roughly 30% of adults and 40% of children.

The report found that many GP's have little or no training on allergies, which can lead to them making an incorrect diagnosis, referral to the wrong specialist, or dismissal as inconsequential or imagined.

The question that everyone is asking is why is there an ever increasing number of allergy sufferers identified each year. One theory is that we are now too clean and obsessed with 'anti-bacterial' everything. Consequently we are not exposed to the microbes that will enable our bodies to develop resistance. As our grandmothers all said "a little bit of dirt never did anyone any harm".

As recent as 25 years ago peanut allergies were rare, however in 2004 it is estimated that 1 in 50 children now sufferers this potentially fatal allergy. Failure to recognise, especially during a first attack can of course be fatal. One family who were completely unaware of this problem with their toddler only found out during a transatlantic flight, and it was only the fact that medication was available on the plane that averted a potentially terrible outcome.

Unfortunately the government's Health Minister has argued that there is no real evidence that needs are not being met, based on the fact that waiting lists are not unduly long in the area of allergies. Could this be due to the lack of referrals?

The medical charity Allergy UK are delighted with the report as it is a problem that they have been highlighting for years. And the Anaphylaxis Campaign, a support group for people with life-threatening allergies, are also optimistic that this may be the turning point that allergy sufferers need to finally get better recognition and treatment.

With people becoming more aware and interested in learning how to control their allergies, the recent change to make Allergy, a magazine for allergy sufferers, available to the public having previously only been available to GP's and NHS allergy clinics is a sure recognition of this fact.

During the next few weeks the Health Minister and Department of Health will be putting together their response to this report. Let's hope that it returns a positive outcome for allergy sufferers and finally an end to allergy suffering, often in silence, sometimes fatal silence.