National Allergy Strategy Group parliamentary reception – inspirational, emotional and packed!

I’m just back from a brilliant parliamentary reception organised by the National Allergy Strategy Group (NASG), aimed at raising awareness of allergies amongst MPs and the government as a whole.

Jo Swinson, in a very nice blue jacket

MP Jo Swinson

Jo Swinson chaired the NASG parliamentary reception

Jo Swinson MP for East Dunbartonshire chaired the event and was incredibly supportive of the concerns of everyone in the room. She totally understands allergies and is fighting for more support and recognition from the government and MPs (I understand we were expecting about 20 MPs to attend).

With the current state of the UK economy I can’t help feeling it’s going to be an uphill struggle. Austerity grips and funds are likely to be directed to more worthy causes.

But allergies can kill. They can severly debilitate peoples lives. Without proper advice, support and care many are terrified to leave their homes, eat out, let their children go to school or parties etc. etc. The list goes on…

Allergies are here to stay for the forseeable future so we have to learn to live with them, cope with them and educate others about them.

Dr McEwan started us off with the sombering facts

Dr McEwan

Dr McEwan sharing stats on allergies in the UK

Dr McEwan shared some interesting facts.

1 in 3 adults have allergies of some degree.
40% of children have allergies.
5 million of the 20 million people in the UK with allergies are serious enough to see a specialist.

Despite these shocking statistics, and lets face it, these figures are probably already out-of-date, our NHS is woefully inadequate to cope with this rise in allergies.

Would you believe me if I told you that there are still only 30 full time allergy specialists for both children and adults across the whole country? There are other part time staff, nurses and dieticians who help enormously at each allergy specialist hospital, but it’s not enough.

No wonder waiting lists are long, in some cases longer than six months. But it’s not acceptable for many GPs to be so uneducated about allergies. Even if they don’t have the knowledge themselves, they should know the protocol for referring someone displaying allergic symptoms to a specialist. That’s not rocket science. Delegate the problem to someone else, don’t just ignore it.

Following these sombering statistics we heard from members of the Anaphylaxis Campaign share their experiences of the NHS, some good, some bad, but all emotional, inspirational and motivating.

To hear peoples personal stories, to see how much they had fought for help and information, and to realise how strong they were. I had a tear in my eye on many occasions.

It’s sad because it shouldn’t be like this. Why is so hard? Why is awareness and understanding of allergies so poor in this country? Many people go private but not everyone has that luxury.

Me outside The Houses of Parliament

Me outside Cromwell Gate before the NASG parliamentary reception

I don’t have any answers but I can do my bit on here, on my blog. I can share my experiences and encourage those suffering in silence to seek help, get advice, get that referral.

I know from personal experience that meeting my allergy specialist at Amersham Hospital gave me so much more confidence to try new things and experiment with cooking myself different meals.

Sadly for me I slipped through the cracks, suffered in silence with a doctor who told me allergy tests weren’t available and that it was very unusual to be allergic to more than one food. Oh he didn’t dispute my nut allergy which had been confirmed by blood tests when I was much younger. His advice about the nut allergy? Don’t eat nuts! Doctors have also told me that I just have eczema and asthma and that these things were not related to my allergies. Well we all know that’s not true.

Finally, after two unreported anaphylactic attacks and one A&E visit I finally got that referral. Special thanks to Tanya Wright, especially for her amazing product packaging library which always has me wide eyed scanning for new products I’ve not tried yet.

So if you’re reading this and wishing you had some more answers, that you’re all alone with noone to talk to, first of all, post a comment and you’ll get lots of support here in return. But secondly, go to your doctor and insist on a referral. Don’t take no for an answer. Find out where your nearest allergy support centre is. Kick up a fuss. Get that help. It’s worth it.

It was amazing to mingle with like minded people, share stories, experiences and recipes and I’ve made some new ‘allergy’ friends. It’s one of the ony occasions when you are one of the many, those without allergies were probably in a minority for a change.

I didn’t get the chance to speak to Jo Swinson or Dr McEwan but I did manage to yell as Jo left, “Nice jacket!” to which she replied, “Oh thanks, I have to be very careful as a few other lady MPs have the same one!” Thank you Jo for supporting us once again. It does mean so much.

Thanks to Mandy East and everyone at the NASG, The Anaphylaxis Campaign and Allergy UK for a truly inspirational, emotional and completely packed out event and for all that you do to raise awareness of allergies.

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About Ruth

Ruth works freelance as a copywriter and writes the What Allergy blog to share information with people who have allergies, eczema, asthma and food intolerances. http://www.whatallergy.com was voted in the top 5 allergy blogs and Ruth also judges regularly for the FreeFrom Food Awards and FreeFrom Skincare Awards. She also won the Foods You Can People's choice Best FreeFrom blogger award 2014.

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