Health written question – answered on 19th April 2004.

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Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on trends in the occurrence of allergies in the UK; and what the Government's policy is on the alleviation of allergies.

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

We recognise that the numbers of people with allergies are increasing. It is not yet known why this is, but various factors are thought to be involved including a rise in dust mites due to a greater use of carpets, air pollution, and people being introduced to more allergens such as new plant species.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) published its report, "Allergy—the unmet need: a blueprint for better patient care", on 25 June 2003. We welcome the RCP report and believe it is a useful contribution to the debate on how to improve national health service allergy services.

The Food Standards Agency funds research on food allergy and intolerance, with particular emphasis on severe allergies; how they occur and what causes them. A large programme of research on food intolerance and allergy, costing around £1 million a year, is ongoing. King's College London is leading a £2.1 million European Commission-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.

It is the role of primary care trusts, in partnership with local stakeholders, to decide what services to provide for their populations, including those with allergies. They are best placed to understand local health care needs and commission services to meet them.

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