National charity Allergy UK calls on the government to improve services available through GP practices
- Third of UK population lives with one or more allergic condition in the UK
- Up to 10% of GP appointments relate to allergy
LONDON, April 25, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Allergy UK is today urging government to heed its call to introduce specialist allergy nurses and dietitians to GP services.
The call made by Allergy UK at the beginning of Allergy Awareness Week follows findings of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, highlighting that 93% of the statutory bodies responsible for commissioning allergy services according to local needs, do not even hold data to understand the scale of this need.
The UK is one of the top three countries in the world with the highest incidence of allergy. 1 in 3 adults and 50% of the child population is living with an allergic condition. 8% of all GP appointments relate to allergy. There has been a 615% increase in hospital admissions related to allergic disease in the last 20 years. The annual cost to the NHS on allergy prescriptions alone is nearly £1 billion.
Until last year, GP-led Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were responsible for commissioning allergy services. In May 2022 these were replaced by NHS England with Integrated Care Systems (ICS). Each ICS has its own Integrated Care Board (ICBs), responsible for designing NHS health services in their area to suit its population needs. ICBs are now responsible for commissioning allergy services.
Results from a FOI request made to the ICBs by Allergy UK found 93% of the NHS bodies do hold dataa on how many people in their area are affected by allergic conditions. Furthermore, 40% viewed data on patients with allergies as a GP or hospital trust responsibility rather than that of the ICB.
With allergy service provision still seemingly undefined by the majority of NHS England ICBs, Allergy UK is calling for each ICS in England to introduce an allergy nurse and dietitian at primary care level. This would make first contact consultations more cost effective than using secondary care consultants, whilst freeing up much needed GP consultation time.
The proposal for the introduction of a specialist allergy nurse and dietitian at primary care level follows evidence from a 2017 trial of this approach. The research trial, mainly funded by Allergy UK, assessed the feasibility of a nurse-led allergy service at primary care level with two specialist allergy nurses supporting 35 GPs found that:
- Waiting times were reduced from 6-18 month to 4-8 weeks
- Only 5% were referred to secondary care compared to 85% of patients being referred to secondary care by GPs before the nurse service was introduced
Simone Miles, CEO at Allergy UK, explains “Allergy needs to be taken more seriously by our healthcare system. Its prevalence in society is growing and our healthcare system is inadequately addressing the issue of allergy because there isn’t enough specialist allergy knowledge at a GP level. This results in delayed diagnosis and effective management plans for patients whilst taking up more GP time than is necessary, with a knock-on effect for anyone wanting to get time with a GP for other conditions. We are calling for people to pledge their support for our call to bring in specialist allergy nurses and dietitians at a GP level and for government to heed our call.”
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