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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 May 2007, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Allergy patients 'failed by NHS'
Wasp stings can lead to fatal allergic reactions
GPs and pharmacists do not know enough about allergies, putting patients lives at risk, campaigners say.

Allergy UK said training on the subject was extremely limited and many people were going undiagnosed.

And the pressure group said even when diagnoses were made, medics often had nowhere to send patients as there were limited specialist allergy clinics.

GPs agree it is an issue that needs to be addressed, but pharmacists argue they already receive enough training.

Allergic reactions are caused by substances in the environment known as allergens, of which the most common are pollen from trees and grasses, house dust mites, wasps, bees and food such as milk and eggs.

Allergies must be taken seriously and we would like to see a stronger emphasis on training in allergies in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical training
Professor Mayur Lakhani, of the Royal College of GPs

The number of people suffering allergic reactions has been rising over the last 15 years with over 6,000 people a year in England admitted to hospital.

A quarter of these involve anaphylaxis - a sudden, severe and potentially life-threatening reaction, which can cause dangerous swelling of the lips or face and lead to breathing problems.

After listening to the hundreds of people contacting them, Allergy UK believes doctors and pharmacists are too slow to pick up allergies, leaving people vulnerable to severe reactions.

A spokeswoman said: "Doctors and other health professionals get little training about dealing with allergies.

"It means patients are being put at risk."

The charity also criticised the lack of specialist allergy clinics. Many hospitals have some kind of service, but there are just six clinics in the country which deal with all types of allergy.


The charity is planning to launch a website for health professionals giving information about allergies and the common symptoms. They are also offering training on allergies.

Professor Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Allergies must be taken seriously and we would like to see a stronger emphasis on training in allergies in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical training.

"At the moment we don't have the facilities to adequately investigate, manage and treat patients with allergies and we would like to see a programme of national action implemented in primary care."

But the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain rejected the idea that pharmacists were not trained enough.

A spokeswoman said: "Pharmacists receive five years education and training, a large focus of which is on allergy."

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