Objectives The incidence and prevalence of allergies worldwide has been increasing and allergy services globally are unable to keep up with this increase in demand. This systematic review aims to understand the delivery of allergy services worldwide, challenges faced and future directions for service delivery.
Methods A systematic scoping review of Ovid, EMBASE, HMIC, CINAHL, Cochrane, DARE, NHS EED and INAHTA databases was carried out using predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. Data on the geographical region, study design and treatment pathways described were collected, and the findings were narratively reported. This review followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.
Results 205 publications were screened and 27 selected for review. Only 3 were prospective studies, and none included a control group. There were no eligible publications identified from North America, Africa, Australia and most parts of Asia. Most publications relate to allergy services in the UK. In general, allergy services globally appear not to have kept pace with increasing demand. The review suggests that primary care practitioners are not being adequately trained in allergy and that there is a paucity of appropriately trained specialists, especially in paediatric allergy. There appear to be considerable barriers to service improvement, including lack of political will and reluctance to allocate funds from local budgets.
Conclusions Demand for allergy services appears to have significantly outpaced supply. Primary and secondary care pathways in allergy seem inadequate leading to poor referral practices, delays in patient management and consequently poor outcomes. Improvement of services requires strong public and political engagement. There is a need for well-planned, prospective studies in this area and a few are currently underway. There is no evidence to suggest that any given pathway of service provision is better than another although data from a few long-term, prospective studies look very promising.