To ask the Secretary of State for Health
(1) what plans he has to implement the recommendations of the Royal College of Physicians report, "Allergy: the Unmet Need";
(2) how many people have required treatment from specialist allergy doctors in each year since 1997;
(3) if he will take steps to increase the number of specialist allergy doctors;
(4) what steps he is taking to ensure that local health authorities and NHS trusts develop and manage allergy services.
We welcomed the Royal College of Physicians' report and believe it is a useful contribution to the debate on how to improve National Health Service allergy services. 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.
The information about the number of people requiring treatment from specialist allergy doctors is not held centrally. However the Royal College of Physicians estimated in their 2003 Report, "Allergy—the unmet need: a blueprint for better patient care", that around one in six of the population is affected by allergy.
The Department's September 2003 workforce census records 24 hospital medical staff specialising in allergy, including 20 consultants. The number of hospital medical allergy staff as a whole has doubled since September 2000, the first year allergy was collected as a separate speciality and numbers of consultants specifically increased by 14. The NHS Plan also announced that there would be 1,000 general practitioners with special interests by 2004. Already, there are over 100 GP-led schemes and around 35 nurse-led schemes.
Allergy has been allocated an additional centrally funded specialist registrar post in 2004–05 and a further centrally funded specialist registrar post in 2005–06. This is in recognition of the desire to increase the allergy workforce and trusts will still have the opportunity to locally fund further posts.