National Allergy Strategy Group

NHS Allergy services: what is the problem?

The Facts

  • About 1 in 3 of the population or 20 million people suffer from allergic disease
  • About 7 million people have allergy of sufficient severity or complexity to require
  • referral to a specialist allergist
  • 6 to 8% of children are living with a food allergy

The Problem

  • Allergy services are poor. There is a wide and unacceptable gap between patient need and service provision. At all levels in the NHS there is insufficient expertise in allergy.
  • There are only a small number of allergy specialists. This is because few posts are funded and few doctors are being trained in allergy.
  • This is because of a lack of funding and priority for allergy. Commissioning for local services is inadequate, often because they are not aware of the need.
  • There is a lack of knowledge amongst GPs to ensure that patients are diagnosed or managed in primary care or referred appropriately.

What Action is Needed?

  • GPs, practice nurses and health visitors should receive increased and improved training in allergy to improve allergy awareness, enabling them to manage the simpler allergies in primary care and refer effectively
  • Undergraduate medical curricula should include increased and improved education in allergy
  • Care pathways should be significantly improved to ensure patients receive an accurate and timely diagnosis and are not relying on wholly inappropriate and potentially dangerous alternative testing
  • Critical to better care is to increase the body of expertise. The NASG believes that to address this, more allergy specialist posts need to be created and funded in the NHS
  • Priority is given to the clinical and cost effective commissioning of allergy services so that patients have access to appropriate treatment