Allergy UK Annual Review 2019-2020

The British Allergy Foundation was formed in 1991 by a group of leading UK allergists who believed that those living with allergic disease have the right to good quality support, education, and advice about their condition throughout their lives. The UK health system only provides limited allergy services and the British Allergy Foundation, operating as Allergy UK since 2001, is the charitable organisation established to fill the gap and provide this support. It also lobbies and advocates for improved recognition of the seriousness of allergy and its impact on the quality of life of those living with allergic disease.

Allergy UK’s mission is to ‘raise the profile of allergy at all levels and to ensure that everyone affected by allergy receives the best possible care and support by increasing awareness, knowledge, and understanding of allergic disease’. Working closely with healthcare professionals and other partners in the field of allergy and immunology in the UK, Europe, and across the globe, as well as patients and their families, it aims to drive forward advances in diagnosis, prevention, treatment and management of the full range of allergic disease (e.g. food, respiratory, skin, venom, drug and occupational allergies) and encompasses all degrees of severity from mild and moderate to acute reactions, including anaphylaxis.

Message from the Chair and Chief Executive

Change is something that we’ve all had to manage in recent months because of the impact of Covid-19 on our daily lives during 2020. We are constantly adapting to respond to the
impact of the virus on our health, our family and social life, along with the financial impact from the recession.

An individual or family living with allergy has to live with and manage constant change all the time, because our society, our systems, our ways of every-day life still do not provide adequately for the healthcare and safety needed for many living with allergy. Now the pandemic is bringing new challenges to our community. At the start of the pandemic we saw mass panic buying, leaving the food allergic community without vital food products. This led to our collaboration with others to lobby supermarkets and government regulators to ensure our community could access the food they need. We received increasing numbers of calls to our Helpline from those living with respiratory allergies, frightened and anxious about Covid-19, struggling with wearing face masks and managing the lack of social distancing by others. We developed advice and support materials for our callers, including for those with skin allergy who were needing advice on how to manage frequent hand washing and using sanitiser, when their atopic eczema meant they already had sore and broken skin. Our community adapts to the changes needed, and so do we as a charity working on their behalf.

This pandemic has had a major impact on our end of year finances for 2019/20. Our Seal of Approval is a global trademark in numerous countries around the world and the global impact of the virus has affected our trading subsidiary income during the latter part of the year. In addition, the cancellation of many fundraising challenge events has meant that we, like many other charities, have felt further financial impact. We have had to change and adapt in order to manage that impact.

Allergy UK’s 5-year plan from 2015-2020 had at its heart the key objective to raise the profile of allergy – and pre-pandemic we had begun to see some of the changes we had committed to achieving. Sadly, some of these were as a response to Coroner’s reports for preventable deaths, but others have been a direct response to programmes and activities with which we have been involved. Positive change was beginning to happen, albeit slowly. For example, the Royal College of GPs is now developing a module on allergy as a part of its training programme. We have been involved in discussions and training projects with major airlines on the implementation of staff training on the support of those travelling with allergy. Schools can now purchase adrenaline auto-injectors and we have seen many secondary schools signing up to access our schools’ programme.

However, allergy services in our health system remain limited and under-resourced and the impact of the pandemic may see even less priority given to allergy services, longer waiting lists and less clinical space and perhaps fewer specialist advisors. Lock-down restrictions have had a major impact on the catering industry. Many food establishments could not fully cater for people with food allergy before this and it may not be a priority for the near future. The Food Standards Agency has highlighted one of their main priorities for the next period is food hypersensitivities, so hopefully there will now be a regulatory drive to improve this. The airline industry has been majorly impacted because of travel restrictions, so allergy training may not be a focus for some time.

Our annual report provides evidence of the wide-ranging services we provide to fill the gap in support, information and advice for the allergic community. We highlight the influencing and networks in which we will continue to contribute with the aim to raise awareness of the needs of our community. In 2019 our Trustees and team reviewed progress over the last 5 years, and while much has been achieved, we are very aware that there is much more to be done to change the way our society responds to those living with allergic disease. The pandemic may have changed things, but we are determined to continue to make a difference to the lives of those living with allergic disease, because the allergic community is at the heart of everything we do.

Following the review in 2019, we developed our Strategy for Change 2020-2025. Our focus over this next period will be to build upon the work we have done to raise the profile of allergic disease but with a strengthened mission and vision. We want to engage more with those we are here to support, hear more of their stories and raise their voices through campaigns and lobbying, and we want to deliver more services to support the daily needs of those living with allergy.

But to do this we need the continued support from our donors and other stakeholders who provide donations, grants and sponsorship. Historically we have tried to be self-sufficient through our trading subsidiary, Allergy Research Limited. However, to be able to deliver more for the allergic community we must change. We plan to develop our fundraising activities so that we can raise muchneeded income. Without your generous support we would not be able to deliver the services our community needs to improve their quality of life and with the impact of the current recession we are even more reliant on your contributions.

No one should die from allergy. We continue to work to urge everyone in the UK to take allergy seriously. We hope that we can continue to rely on your support not only through the challenges we all face because of the pandemic but into the future beyond Covid-19.