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Asthma and allergy awareness

Millions of people in the UK suffer from asthma and allergies, yet services for both are still poor

Allergy UK and the General Practice Airways Group (GPIAG) have developed an asthma status measure and patient self-assessment checklist to support GPs during their asthma reviews.

The tool, supported by an unrestricted grant from Merck Sharp & Dohme, aims to improve asthma management and control, which for the first time, takes into consideration the potential impact of allergy symptoms on asthma sufferers.

Estimates suggest that somewhere between 30 per cent and 90 per cent of the UK's 5.1m asthma patients also suffer from co-existing allergic rhinitis. However, there is growing academic and clinical evidence of a close relationship between asthma and allergic rhinitis both of which share common inflammatory mediators.

ìThe evidence for the association between asthma and allergic rhinitis - and the impact that allergic rhinitis has on asthma - is now compelling,î said David Price, GPIAG professor of primary care respiratory medicine. ìDespite this, the two conditions are rarely diagnosed and treated as one disease. We must complement this understanding with an increased focus on awareness and education among healthcare professionals and patients alike,î he continued.

The launch of the assessment tool comes amid growing concern among healthcare professionals that allergy is a neglected area of the NHS. Although allergy is one of the most common disease-types in the UK, affecting around 30 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of children, there is approximately one specialist consultant per two million of the population, according to a report from the Commons Health Committee.

While need is outstripping provision, a survey of 240 GPs commissioned by the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology found that 80 per cent of GPs believe NHS allergy services to be of poor quality. Just one in four of the respondents said they had access to an allergy clinic for patient referrals.

2nd September 2008

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