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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 13:12 GMT
Allergy report response 'lacking'
Woman sneezing
One in three adults has some form of allergy
The government has been criticised for failing to respond adequately to a report which claimed NHS allergy services were a lottery.

MPs on the Health Committee highlighted a lack of specialists, poor access to services and ignorance among GPs in their report published last November.

The Department of Health has now called for a further review of services.

But David Hinchliffe, the Labour chairman of the Health Committee, said that was "completely unnecessary".

The government's reply to the committee's report falls way short of expectations.
David Hinchliffe
He said: "Not only has the committee already reviewed all the available evidence, but we made it very clear that further delay in the provision of services is unacceptable.

"The government's reply to the committee's report falls way short of expectations.

"People with allergies will continue to suffer if the Department of Health ignores the recommendations made by our committee.

"I hope the Department of Health will reconsider it's response and act quickly to help those in need."

More training

Mr Hinchliffe was particularly concerned by the Department of Health's failure to address a recommendation made by his committee - and echoed by the Royal College of Physicians - for primary care trusts to commission more training for doctors on how to treat allergy.

We agree with much of it but believe that more information is needed before decisions on some of its recommendations can be taken.
Stephen Ladyman
"There are serious shortfalls in the number of doctors being trained to treat allergies.

"PCTs should be encouraged to commission these services as soon as possible, and work hard to increase the number of specialist allergy trainees."

The Health Committee report also recommended each of the eight regions in England set up a specialist allergy centre.

It said in many cases patients were seen by specialist doctors such as dermatologists or immunologists, but could often be better dealt with if they had access to a specialist allergist.

Health Minister Stephen Ladyman said: "The NHS already provides a comprehensive service for allergy sufferers in both primary and secondary care.

"These local services are commissioned by primary care trusts. The government's substantial extra investment in the NHS will help deliver service improvements across the board, including allergy services.

"We have considered the Committee's report very carefully. We agree with much of it but believe that more information is needed before decisions on some of its recommendations can be taken.

"The Department of Health will therefore conduct a review of the available data and research on the epidemiology of allergic conditions, the demand for and provision of treatment and the effectiveness of relevant interventions."

Bland statements

David Reading, director of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, said the government's response suggested the NHS could cope with allergy when there was overwhelming evidence that it could not.

"One three-year-old girl with severe food allergy had to travel from North Devon to London - a 500-mile round trip - to get proper allergy care.

"Another child waited five months to see a specialist - and had a reaction while waiting.

"We have dozens of other cases that demonstrate an unmet need.

"We are extremely disappointed at the Department of Health's bland and feeble statements and would urge them to reconsider."

Dr Rodney Burnham, of the Royal College of Physicians, also expressed disappointment.

"The Select Committee's key recommendation and one on which all elements depend was to develop a national allergy service. The evidence to support this is available now.

"It is sad that the delay will adversely affect patient choice."

Some 15 million people - 30% of adults and 40% of children - have an allergy and the figure has been rising for the last 20 years.

While many are not life-threatening, a number of allergies can kill.

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