Page last updated at 23:36 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 00:36 UK

Allergies cost NHS Scotland 130m

Inhaler
Treating allergic disease costs NHS Scotland 130m a year

One in three of the Scottish population is affected by allergies at some point in their lives - higher than in England, according to a new study.

The report, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that allergic diseases cost NHS Scotland more than £130m a year.

The cost of GP consultations for asthma alone stood at £786,000.

Allergic disorders accounted for more than 4% of GP consultations and 1.5% of hospital admissions.

The study indicates that the lifetime prevalence for all allergic disease is higher in Scotland than England, particularly for eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis.

In England, one in four people suffer from allergies.

'Poor' provision

One of the main authors of the study Professor Aziz Sheikh, head of the allergy and respiratory research group at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Previous reports that looked at allergy disease in the UK have tended to overlook Scottish data.

"This report has, for the first time, concentrated solely on the Scottish context and reveals that people in Scotland are more likely to suffer from an allergy at some point in their lives than someone in England."

He described overall clinical provision in Scotland as "lamentable".

"We currently do not have nearly enough expertise in general practice or specialist centres where patients with severe and complex allergic disease can be assessed and managed," he said.

The enormous burden of allergy to the NHS does not even begin to take account of the cost to society of days lost from work, or of children and young people who underperform in exams in the hay fever season and whose careers are blighted as a result
Baroness Ilora Finlay
House of Lords science committee

"There is also a need for ongoing monitoring of allergy disease trends in Scotland and a pressing need to better understand why so many people are now affected and what can be done to reverse this trend."

Professor Jürgen Schwarze, from the University of Edinburgh, who also chairs the Scottish paediatric allergy group, said: "Scotland urgently needs additional investment into sustainable and equitable allergy services in order to ensure those suffering from allergies receive care at the level appropriate to their clinical need in primary, secondary or tertiary care.

"An added benefit of well-developed allergy services would be that Scotland, with its high prevalence of allergic disease, its stable population, and the ability to follow patients for a lifetime through their NHS registration number, will lend itself to become an internationally leading hub for allergy research."

Baroness Ilora Finlay, chairman of the House of Lords science and technology committee's report on allergy, said the study echoed the findings of the committee.

She added: "The enormous burden of allergy to the NHS does not even begin to take account of the cost to society of days lost from work, or of children and young people who underperform in exams in the hay fever season and whose careers are blighted as a result.

"We also need to look at the cost of medication that has been inappropriately prescribed because of a lack of specialist allergy diagnostic services.

"Allergy can be a very complex condition and those with complex allergy need the benefit of a specialist opinion to steer the most appropriate way to get their allergy under control."



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SEE ALSO
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