New Clause 69 - National lead for policy related to allergies

Health and Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 2nd November 2021.

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“Within 6 months of the passage of this Act the Secretary of State must direct NHS England to designate a national lead for policy related to allergies.”—

This new clause brings in a requirement for the Secretary of State to ensure the appointment of a NHS England allergy lead.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

New clause 69 is very important indeed. It requires the Secretary of State to direct NHS England to appoint a tsar to lead on policy related to allergies.

In 2016, 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse tragically lost her life after suffering an allergic reaction to a Pret A Manger baguette. Since then, her parents have campaigned tirelessly to ensure that her death was not in vain and to stop other parents and loved ones having to suffer as they are suffering. They set up the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation and their campaigning has already successfully led to Natasha’s law, which was implemented just last month and requires food retailers to display full ingredient and allergen labelling on foods made on premises and prepacked for direct sale. That is a tremendous achievement, and it will make a significant difference to lots of people. I have met the Ednan-Laperouse family, with their MP, my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter; they are inspiring people and tremendous campaigners. The new clause is very much in the spirit of their latest campaign—I certainly would not bet against them.

The World Health Organisation has described allergic disease as a “modern epidemic”, while Allergy UK estimates that up to 21 million people in the UK are affected by allergies. Allergic disorders can have a detrimental impact on patients’ quality of life, as they not only have the obvious health effects, but can mean that social interactions that others take for granted—such as eating out, or even going to work—are a major health risk. Allergies can be complex: patients can suffer from several disorders at the same time, each triggered by different allergies.

In the 20 years to 2012, hospital admissions for anaphylaxis rose by 615%. Despite that, allergies are not particularly high up the political agenda for conversation and there is a perception of poor management across the NHS due to a lack of training and expertise. At the root of that is the fact that we have a very small number of consultants in adult or paediatric allergy and the fact that GPs receive basically no training in allergy.

Following the inquest into the death of Shanté Turay-Thomas—another tragic teenage death—the coroner highlighted the lack of a national allergy lead in her prevention of future death report, which was sent to the Department of Health and Social Care. I think today is a chance to make good on that, and I would be very interested to hear what the Minister has to say on those suggestions. Natasha’s foundation, with the support of Shanté’s mother, subsequently made the call for an allergy tsar.

Two weeks ago, the all-party parliamentary group on allergy, in conjunction with the National Allergy Strategy Group, launched its report, “Meeting the challenges of the National Allergy Crisis”. The report

“calls for an influential lead for allergy to be appointed who can implement a new national strategy to help the millions of people” suffering. There is a real coming together across our communities of people in this space calling for this measure, and this the moment to do it.

Otherwise, as I have suggested, NHS allergy services will continue to get little attention, little prominence and little investment. Care is patchy and we know that people deserve much better support. An allergy tsar would act as a public champion for those with allergies, helping to deliver a national plan to join up GP and hospital services so that patients have a consistent and coherent NHS care pathway, and helping to promote the training of more specialist allergy doctors, consultants and GPs. It would make a difference to millions of people. I hope that the Minister will look upon the new clause favourably and give the answer that millions of people are waiting for.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

As the shadow Minister set out, the new clause would place a statutory responsibility on the Secretary of State, requiring him or her to direct NHS England to appoint an allergy lead. The shadow Minister rightly highlighted that tragic case that demonstrated to the country the issues and challenges in this space. I entirely sympathise with the intent of the hon. Gentleman, but I hope I can provide him with some reassurance that the amendment is not necessary, because NHSE is already able to appoint an allergy lead, or allergy tsar—call it what you will.

There is no specific national clinical director or specialty adviser for routine allergy services, but I am advised that NHS England and NHS Improvement keep their clinical leadership, including the national clinical director and national specialty adviser roles, under review to ensure alignment with the strategic priorities of the NHS and need. I am sure that NHSE will reflect carefully on the points made by the hon. Gentleman, and I will undertake to acquire a copy of the Hansard to pass on to NHS England and request that it considers the points he made in this context.

I also recognise that, more broadly, it is vital that NHS England and commissioners receive appropriate clinical advice in this area. That is currently provided by the clinical reference group for specialised immunology and allergy services. The CRG covers specialised treatment of certain immunological and allergic conditions. The allergic conditions include severe, complex and/or rare sub-groups. People with allergies continue to be supported through locally commissioned NHS services but, to support patients with more complex conditions, NHSE also directly commissions some specialist services. To support the implementation of coherent care pathways, NICE has also published guidance on a range of allergy conditions, including food allergy in under-19s, anaphylaxis and drug allergy.

We therefore do not believe that the new clause needs to be included in the Bill. Notwithstanding whether the hon. Gentleman decides to press it to a Division, I undertake to ensure that his comments and the case he makes for the role are passed on directly to NHS England. NHSE already has the power, should it wish to exercise it, to put such a person in post.

Photo of Alex Norris Alex Norris Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

I am grateful for that offer. I hope that when NHS England has a chance to consider what has been discussed in Committee, that will generate an offer to meet campaigners to understand what they are after and, we hope, to move positively on it. Beyond that, I am afraid that the Minister’s answer was too much in defence of a status quo that does not work for too many people for me to accept it. In the spirit of elevating the matter up the political agenda and creating that blinking light on someone’s dashboard to generate action, I will press the new clause to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division number 45 Health and Care Bill — New Clause 69 - National lead for policy related to allergies

Aye: 5 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 5, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question proposed, That the Chair do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

The final question that I must put is that I report the Bill, as amended, to the House.

Photo of Edward Argar Edward Argar Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

On a point of order, Mr Bone. Craving your indulgence, may I take this opportunity as we complete the lengthy passage of this legislation through Committee to put on the record our gratitude to the Clerks of the Committee, to the Hansard team and to the Doorkeepers? I also thank you and your fellow Chairs, and colleagues on the Committee. It would be remiss of me not to put on the record my gratitude for the amazing work done by my officials in the Department in preparing the Bill and in helping us to be ready to take it through the detailed scrutiny that has rightly happened in Committee. Thank you, Mr Bone.

Photo of Steve McCabe Steve McCabe Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

Thank you for that bogus point of order.

Photo of Justin Madders Justin Madders Shadow Minister (Health and Social Care)

Further to that point of order, Mr Bone. I echo the Minister’s thanks, not only to you and the other Chairs, Mrs Murray, Mr McCabe and Ms Elliott, but to the Clerks, who have been described to us as very patient and helpful—great qualities in such a long Bill Committee—and to the other parliamentary staff, the Doorkeepers and the Hansard Reporters. As the Minister said of his officials, we too have a great team—though probably a smaller one—of researchers who have been fantastic in giving us the information that we need to make the arguments. I also thank the Whips—it would be remiss of me not to—without whom none of this runs as smoothly as it does. On that note, I thank the Committee for its indulgence.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, accordingly to be reported.

Committee rose.

Written evidence reported to the House

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