Allergy service expansion to treat more patients

Monday 9 January 2017

Adult allergy team with Shekinah Debrah

Allergy experts at Guy’s and St Thomas’ should soon be able to see twice the number of adult patients to meet increased demand.

The Adult Allergy Centre recently moved from St Thomas’ to the Guy’s site, where patients will have access to specialist tests five days a week, rather than two. The expansion of the service comes as allergy cases are rapidly increasing across the country.

Dr Rubaiyat Haque, clinical lead in the Department of Allergy at Guy’s and St Thomas’, said: “The number of referrals we receive gets bigger every year – last year they increased by 25%.

“The new Centre will give us the potential to double the amount of specialist tests known as challenge tests that we can do, so we should soon be able to see around 150 patients every month who need this test.”

Challenge tests involve giving patients small, increasing doses of the suspected allergen in a safe, controlled environment under close supervision from experts, to find out if they react to the substance being tested. If they do, they are treated appropriately.

While blood and skin prick tests can be used to detect certain allergies, challenge tests are the main method of testing that provides a definite diagnosis.

Dr Haque said: “It is key to diagnose people through these challenges. Often people do not get access to the right facilities which can mean they think they have an allergy when they don’t. For example, 10% of people are labelled as allergic to penicillin, but challenge tests find that 95% of them are not, which means they have avoided using an effective medication unnecessarily.”

The adult allergy service at Guy’s and St Thomas’, which includes consultants, specialist trainees, nurses, dietitians and researchers, is the largest of its kind in the UK. It provides patients from across the country with a comprehensive range of allergy services.

The new Centre has been custom made for challenge tests, with new facilities and a central station where nurses are based so they can see all patients at one time while they are being monitored. The team will consist of more nurses who will care for low risk patients while consultants will look after high risk ones, making it possible to see more patients.

Shekinah Debrah, 40, was the first patient to attend the new clinic. She had an anaphylactic shock (a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction) after receiving anaesthetic in preparation for an operation in July. She had challenge tests to find out if she is allergic to a drug used in anaesthetic, which meant she was recently able to have the surgery she needed without any complications.

Shekinah, a mother-of-three from Ilford, said: “I was really pleased to be the first patient at the new clinic, which looks lovely. I had challenge tests at St Thomas’ before it moved and the Centre at Guy’s is more spacious, with new facilities, more cubicles for patients and has a nicer environment. The staff have always been accommodating, informative and caring so the combination of the team and the new Centre makes it a brilliant service.

“Until this year I wasn’t aware how much allergies can affect people. The fact that more people will be able to have the tests they need is wonderful.”

In October the Trust’s adult allergy service was awarded ‘Centre for Excellence’ status by the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GA²LEN).

Last updated: March 2022

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