Allergy Sufferers – What should you expect from the NHS?

As someone who suffers from allergies what level of service should you expect from the NHS?

Anyone who encounters someone having an allergic reaction will know what a frightening and worrying experience this can be.

National Allergy Strategy Group (NASG) Logo

The National Allergy Strategy Group (NASG) is an alliance of the professional organisation BSACI (British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology), the patient charities, Allergy UK (AUK), The Anaphylaxis Campaign (TAC) and the Allergy Alliance (AA) and industry partners. Since its formation in 2001, the NASG has worked, with others, to highlight the need for allergy services; the inadequate care available for allergy patients at all levels in the NHS and to improve NHS allergy services.

Based on the NASG’s recommendations I have put together a list showing what Allergy Sufferers should be able to expect from the NHS.

  • When presenting to your local surgery for the first time, you should expect to see a doctor or nurse with some knowledge of allergies.
  • You should expect the doctor to know where to send you for an allergy referral, the level of service offered at the nearest clinic, and where specialist-led clinics are.
  • If your allergy is severe, or potentially life threatening then you require an urgent referral.  This must be to a doctor with the appropriate expertise.
  • You have the right to request a referral to a specialist led clinic even if it is out of  your  immediate local area.
  • All GP’s should have sufficient competence in allergies to make these decisions.
  • Every child should be referred to a doctor with the appropriate allergy competence.  In many cases this requires a Consultant Paediatric Allergist.
  • If you require it, you should have access to a full Allergy service which includes a team dedicated to allergies.
  • If you feel you aren’t getting the necessary level of service to manage your condition, you should have the right to ask for a second opinion from an Allergy Specialist.
  • Except for the simpler allergies such as mild hay fever,  you should have an accurate diagnosis which would include a search for the allergens causing your symptoms and also assessment of allergic disease in different parts of your body.
  • Care based on a personalised allergy plan which supports the day-to-day control and management of your condition, just as you would expect with other complex disorders.  This would apply to the great majority of patients with severe and more complex allergies.
  • In order for you to have an individual management plan, adequate time would need to be set aside for full discussion of your symptoms, treatment, appropriate medication and trigger avoidance.
  • All patients at risk of life-threatening allergies such as anaphylaxis, some food allergies and angiodema need to know that during any emergency, those responsible for their care are following agreed, standard emergency management protocols that have been accepted for local implementation.
  • After any severe reaction every patient needs to be referred to a specialist in allergies irrespective of whether they have seen a  consultant in the past with emphasis on discovery of the casual agent(s), avoidance and treatment.
  • Every patient suspected to be at risk of severe allergy should have at least one visit to a local, consultant allergist who provides a dedicated allergy service which includes modern diagnostics and the ability to administer allergen-specific immunotherapy.

Wouldn’t it be great if the above list was ‘the norm’ rather than a wish list.

When I first realised that my daughter had allergies and went to my GP, he didn’t know where to refer me to and admitted he had very little knowledge of allergies.  After doing my own research I went back to him with the name of the Specialist I wanted my daughter referring to at Great Ormond Street Hospital (over 200 miles from where I live).  I also gave him a list of other allergy specialists nearer to where we live in case anyone else went to him requiring a referral.

We have had the very good fortune to be seen by a brilliant Consultant Paediatric Immunologist; Dr Stephen Hughes at  Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital recently.  This was after more research and digging around on my part to find someone who specialised in Paediatric Allergy and Immunology.  Thankfully this was supported by both my daughter’s  Paediatrician at our local allergy clinic and my GP who agreed to refer her on.

Sadly there does appear to be a huge gap between what a patient needs and the treatment and service that is available to them.

What are your experiences in trying to receive a diagnosis and/or treatment?

Take a look at our Clinic Locator if you need help finding your nearest Allergy Clinic.

Source: The National Allergy Strategy Group

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