2 July 2009
Allergic disease costs NHS Scotland £130 million a year and is "worse than in England"
The most comprehensive and detailed review of the burden posed by allergic disease in Scotland concludes that one in three of the Scottish population are affected by allergies at some point in their lives - higher than in England.
The study, published in the October issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that allergic disease costs NHS Scotland over £130 million with the cost of GP consultations for asthma alone standing at £786,000.
The study indicates that the lifetime prevalence for all allergic disease* is higher in Scotland than England, and in particular for eczema, asthma and allergic rhinitis.
Allergic disorders accounted for more than 4% of GP consultations and 1.5% of hospital admissions.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, Professor of Primary Care Research in the Centre for Population Health Sciences and Head of the Allergy & Respiratory Research Group at The University of Edinburgh, Scotland and one of the main authors of the study, commented: "Previous reports that looked at allergy disease in the UK have tended to overlook Scottish data. This report has, for the first time, concentrated solely on the Scottish context and reveals that people in Scotland are more likely to suffer from an allergy at some point in their lives than someone in England.
"Clinical provision in Scotland is overall lamentable. We currently do not have nearly enough expertise in general practice or specialist centres where patients with severe and complex allergic disease can be assessed and managed. There is also a need for ongoing monitoring of allergy disease trends in Scotland and a pressing need to better understand why so many people are now affected and what can be done to reverse this trend."
Professor Jürgen Schwarze, Edward Clark Professor of Child Life and Health at The University of Edinburgh, who also chairs the Scottish Paediatric Allergy Group, commented that, ironically, Scotland had the potential to take a lead in allergy research: "Scotland urgently needs additional investment into sustainable and equitable allergy services in order to ensure those suffering from allergies receive care at the level appropriate to their clinical need in primary, secondary or tertiary care. An added benefit of well developed allergy services would be that Scotland, with its high prevalence of allergic disease, its stable population, and the ability to follow patients for a lifetime through their NHS registration number, will lend itself to become an internationally leading hub for allergy research."
Baroness Ilora Finlay, chairman of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report on allergy said the study echoed the findings of the Committee.
She commented: "The enormous burden of allergy to the NHS does not even begin to take account of the cost to society of days lost from work, or of children and young people who underperform in exams in the hay fever season and whose careers are blighted as a result. We also need to look at the cost of medication that has been inappropriately prescribed because of a lack of specialist allergy diagnostic services.
"Allergy can be a very complex condition and those with complex allergy need the benefit of a specialist opinion to steer the most appropriate way to get their allergy under control."
*Allergic disease in this review covered allergic rhinitis, anaphylaxis, angioedema, asthma, conjunctivitis, eczema, food allergies and urticaria.
For further details or to interview Professor Aziz Sheikh, please contact the Royal Society of Medicine Media Office:
Carmel Turner: 020 7290 2904 or 07949 516471
Rebecca Jenkins: 020 7290 3866 or 07868 130380
Note to editors:
Epidemiology and disease burden from allergic disease in Scotland: analyses of national databases C Anandan, R Gupta, CR Simpson, C Fischbacher, A Sheikh, is published in the current issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Please remember to mention the Journal if you cover this story. Thanks!
JRSM is the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. It has full editorial independence of the RSM. It has been published continuously since 1809. Its Editor is Dr Kamran Abbasi.
House of Lords Science and Technology Committee report on allergy
Royal College of Physicians report Allergy: the unmet need
Scottish Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee review of allergy services in Scotland