NHS Scotland is now forking out £130 million a year on the treatment of allergic disorders, the prevalence of which have spiralled over the last decade, with the majority of costs relating to primary care and the control of asthma, a study has found.

In response to “ongoing concerns” about the quality of care patients with allergies receive in Scotland, a team lead by scientists from the University of Edinburgh undertook research to investigate the incidence, prevalence and outcome of allergic disorders as well as the burden they place on health services in the country.

The findings, published in The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, show that allergic disorders are now common in Scotland with one in three people living there having been affected at some point in their lives, and that more than 4% of all GP consultations and 1.5% of hospital admissions are related to allergies.

In addition, it was revealed that GP consultations for allergic problems in the country cost the NHS Scotland an estimated £1.5 million per year, while the related bill for hospital admissions is around £10.2 million and community prescribed treatments nearly £120 million, racking up overall costs of more than £130 million, with asthma the primary culprit across all cost domains, according to the researchers.

Interestingly, the prevalence of allergic rhinitis (hay fever), asthma and eczema was found to be higher in Scotland than England (one in three compared to one in four, respectively) but health experts have slammed the quality of care patients receive there compounding the problem.

According to one study author, 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, the provision of clinical services to patients suffering from allergies in Scotland is a “lamentable”.

GP 'lacking expertise'
“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,” he said, reports the Associated Press, and called for ongoing monitoring of allergy disease trends in Scotland “to better understand why so many people are now affected and what can be done to reverse this trend”.

In addition, Professor Jurgen Schwarze, Edward Clark Professor of Child Life and Health at Edinburgh, told the media: "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”.