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District health board submissions

Frustrated at the lack of allergy services? Join Allergy New Zealand in making submissions to the District Health Boards.


As part of Allergy Awareness Week, 18-24 May, Allergy New Zealand will be presenting a submission to each of New Zealand’s 21 District Health Boards.

The purpose of these submissions is to raise awareness of the substantial burden that allergies, as one of the leading forms of chronic disease, imposes on New Zealanders as a whole.

New Zealand has one of the highest prevalence of allergic disease in the developed world, affecting up to 20 per cent of the population, mainly young people of working age and their children.

Allergic diseases are a significant underlying cause of avoidable hospital admissions including for asthma and anaphylaxis; repeat GP visits for conditions such as eczema, ear and chest infections and conjunctivitis, and high use of medications such as antibiotics.

They are also responsible for complex conditions such as food allergy, and life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.

However, as people in many regions of New Zealand report, it is very difficult to access specialist care, whether public or private.

In fact, the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy has stated that the number of allergy/immunology specialists in New Zealand is well below international benchmarks and inadequate to manage the burden of disease.

This chronic condition is usually triggered by substances that are difficult to avoid in every day life, from house dust mites and pollen to eggs and dairy food.

Even mild symptoms often have hidden effects, such as lack of sleep due to itching from eczema, while life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis to food, happen within minutes and require an emergency response.

Yet in most regions of New Zealand people report significant delays in getting a proper diagnosis let alone advice and treatment; and in all but a few DHB areas, patients have to pay for services such has laboratory tests or a referral to an allergy specialist, even when such referrals are standard clinical practice overseas.

There is also little or no recognition of the impact on the individual and/or family in managing complex chronic allergic conditions such as food allergy and/or anaphylaxis.

This is compounded by the ongoing reluctance of Pharmac to fund the adrenaline auto-injector (i.e. EpiPen®) for those at risk of anaphylaxis.
 

In these submissions, Allergy New Zealand will call on District Health Boards to:

  1. Acknowledge that the lack of access to specialist allergy and clinical immunology services for the majority of New Zealanders is a serious issue that needs to be resolved as soon as possible;
  2. Commit resources urgently to improve access to tertiary-level clinical services for both paediatric and adult patients with severe and/or complex conditions and/or at risk of life-threatening allergies.
  3. Make a commitment to collaborate regionally and nationally to develop as a priority, publicly funded clinical pathways for allergy and immunology services so that provision for patients is equitable, based on need, and to international best practice including those for the management of chronic disease.

To make these submissions mean something to the District Health Boards, we need as many people as possible to indicate their support for Allergy New Zealand in presenting them on your behalf. We will attach copies of emails and letters sent in support and which identify the District Health Board concerned.

You can indicate support in a number of ways:
 
  • Reply to this email, or email to dhbsubmissions@allergy.org.nz stating your support for Allergy New Zealand’s submission to the [insert name] District Health Board. Please make sure your name and place you live is in the email;
  • Alternatively, write a letter of support as for i) above, and send it to us at Allergy New Zealand, P.O. Box 56 117, Dominion Road, Auckland.
  • Forward this email to family, friends and colleagues and ask them to respond as well.
  • Members of our National Support Network and volunteers will also be collecting signatures. If you would prefer to sign a submission form, or even help collect signatures for the submission to your District Health Board, email us at dhbsubmissions@allergy.org.nz or ring us on 09 623 3912.
  • Media: we will also be putting out a media release and arranging for local people to be interviewed about the need for improvements in allergy services. If you would be prepared to be interviewed please let us know (use the contact details above).

The full submission will be available on our website from 9 May. In the meantime if you have any queries please feel free to contact us.