Health written question – answered on 4th July 2003.

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Photo of Howard Stoate Howard Stoate Labour, Dartford

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the prevalence of allergies was in the last 10 years; how many specialist allergy clinics there are; what research he has done to ascertain the reasons for the changing prevalence of allergies; what plans he has to increase the number of specialist allergy clinics; and if he will make more training places available for allergy specialists.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) estimate in their report into allergies published on 25 June, that at least 15 per cent. of the population is affected by some form of allergy. Additionally, the following table shows the number of prescription items for the treatment of allergies dispensed in the community in England between 1991–2002.

Number of prescription items for treatment of allergies dispensed in the community in England, 1991 to 2002 -- (000s)
BNF sections 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995
3.4.1 Antihistamines 5,641.0 6,116.7 6,048.8 6,184.3 6,180.5
3.4.3 Allergic emergencies 10.6 12.9 15.5 28.0 38.0
12.2.1 Drugs used in nasal allergy 2,704.2 3,233.4 3,543.3 3,748.0 3,770.7
Grand Total 8,355.8 9,363.0 9,607.6 9,960.4 9,989.2
BNF sections 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000
3.4.1 Antihistamines 6,125.9 6,172.4 6,616.3 7,086.0 7,407.1
3.4.3 Allergic emergencies 46.0 51.0 59.4 64.5 74.8
12.2.1 Drugs used in nasal allergy 3,872.6 3,905.0 4,104.7 4,226.7 4,221.8
Grand total 10,044.4 10,128.4 10,780.4 11,374.2 11,703.7
BNF sections 2001 2002
3.4.1 Antihistamines 7,952.2 8,356.6
3.4.3 Allergic emergencies 79.2 103.3
1 2.2.1 Drugs used in nasal allergy 4,320.7 4,433.9
Grand total 12,352.1 12,893.8

The British Allergy Foundation's (BAF) report refers to the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI)'s 2001 handbook of national health service allergy clinics, which lists 86 NHS consultant led clinics in the United Kingdom as well as two nurse led services run by BSCAI members. There were an additional 15 clinics run by NHS consultants identified by BAF in the handbook. Six of these 101 clinics offered services led by a whole-time specialist allergist.

Regarding plans to increase the number of speciality clinics, it is the role of strategic health authorities, in partnership with primary care trusts, to decide what services to provide for their populations including those with allergies. They are best placed to understand local health needs and commission services to meet them.

A range of research projects on the epidemiology of allergies are completed or on-going. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) was formed in 1991. Phase One measured the prevalence of childhood asthma, hayfever and atopic eczema for international comparisons. Phase Two began in 1998 and involves more intensive studies in a smaller number of countries. The Department of Health funded the UK contribution to Phase Two.

The Food Standards Agency is currently funding a £0.5 million project which aims to establish how common food allergy is among children between birth and 15 years of age. King's College London is leading a £2.1 million EC-funded prospective study of the incidence and prognosis of allergy, allergic disease and low lung function in adults living in Europe. Also, The University of Manchester is leading a £1.2 million EC-funded investigation of the prevalence, pathogenesis, treatment and prevention of sun allergy across Europe. Sun-provoked skin reactions are one of the commonest forms of allergy.

Concerning training place availability, for 2003–04, trusts will have the opportunity to create up to five locally funded Specialist Registrars (SpR) training opportunities in allergy. Central funding will also be distributed to support the implementation of one additional SpR posts in immunology and trusts will also have the opportunity to create up to five locally funded SpR training opportunities.

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