Two bereaved mothers call on Government to appoint allergy tsar

·3-min read

Two mothers who lost their teenage daughters to severe allergic reactions are calling on the Government to appoint an “allergy tsar”.

Tanya Ednan-Laperouse and Emma Turay say allergy services and treatments should be made an NHS priority to prevent avoidable deaths and sickness, and a single person put in charge to act as a “public champion” for people living with allergies.

They have launched a new campaign through the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation, which calls for an “allergy tsar” to lead on areas such as increasing the number of specialist clinics available and training more specialist doctors.

Natasha Allergy Research Foundation
Emma Turay’s daughter Shante Turay-Thomas died from a severe reaction to a hazelnut aged 18 (Natasha Allergy Research Foundation)

Mrs Ednan-Laperouse’s 15-year-old daughter, Natasha, died of anaphylaxis after unknowingly eating sesame contained in an artichoke, olive and tapenade baguette she had bought from Pret a Manger at Heathrow Airport.

She fell ill and collapsed on a flight to Nice on July 17 2016.

Ms Turay’s 18-year-old daughter Shante Turay-Thomas died from a severe allergic reaction after eating hazelnut in September 2018.

The inquest into her death heard a combination of human and system error resulted in the student not being seen by ambulance crews until more than 40 minutes after Ms Turay dialled the NHS’s 111 non-emergency number.

The coroner highlighted that there was no single person who has overall responsibility for allergy services in the NHS or Government, the Foundation said.

Ms Turay said: “Nothing can ever bring our Shante back but by appointing an Allergy Tsar the Government can help prevent other families from suffering avoidable deaths.”

Mrs Ednan-Laperouse said: “For too long allergy services have been a Cinderella service in the NHS. Shante’s death shone a shameful light on the low priority that allergy and anaphylaxis is given in this country.”

The new campaign calls for an “allergy tsar” who can “act as a public champion to tackle the allergy epidemic”, as well as increasing the number of specialist allergy clinics and developing a national register of severe allergic reactions.

It also calls for GP and hospital services to be joined up to give patients coherent care, along with increasing the number of specialist allergy doctors and mandatory allergy training for all GPs.

A parliamentary petition has been launched as part of the campaign.

A poll carried out by the Foundation found three in five UK adults (61%) support the appointment of a champion.

Tanya Ednan-Laperouse
Tanya Ednan-Laperouse lost her daughter Natasha, 15, five years ago after she ate a Pret a Manger baguette containing hidden sesame seeds (Natasha Allergy Research Foundation)

Professor Sir Stephen Holgate, a trustee of Natasha’s Foundation, said allergies are at “epidemic levels in the UK”, with one in three people now affected by conditions ranging from food and drug allergies to asthma and eczema.

He said: “Exactly what is causing the dramatic rise in allergies is unclear, however, with each disease the principle is the same – the body’s immune system reacts to a substance as through it is harmful, triggering a reaction.

“Despite this growing burden of disease, there has been little investment in NHS allergy services for the last 20 years. A shortage of allergy specialists and clinics and inadequate allergy training among GPs means many patients with allergies fail to get the care and support they need.

“Appointing an allergy tsar to act as a champion for people with allergies would be an important first step in addressing this unmet need.”

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