The Food Clinic: Training practice nurses to evaluate food sensitivity
Four years ago the allergy research charity, FAIR, pioneered some excellent work assessing the prevalence of food intolerance in the community and offering simple and cost-effective treatment. But Primary Care Trusts were not prepared to fund the relatively modest training costs for practice nurses to run the programme, so it continues to gather dust on the shelf. Now FAIR has decided to offer the programme, free of charge, to any group who can make use of it within their area. Michelle Berriedale-Johnson explains.
The Foundation for Allergy Information and Research (FAIR) is a charity which seeks to 'advance the understanding and management of patient symptoms arising from food allergy and intolerance' by working with researchers and the medical profession in any way that looks as though it might deliver benefit. They currently fund research projects at King's College London and the FAIR database which holds over 100,000 references to research papers, reviews and reports related to allergy.
In 2005, concerned by the lack of information on food intolerance at GP/primary care level, the foundation funded Professor Jane Ogden of the Department of Psychology at the University of Surrey to conduct a two-year practice nurse programme to attempt to establish the extent of the need amongst the community.
However, where they were unable to identify any other organic cause for the patient’s malaise, they were
prepared to use the term ‘food intolerance’ as a non-specific
diagnosis. In the interests of maintaining a good doctor–patient relationship, they did try to work with the beliefs of patients who perceived themselves to be food intolerant,
although they felt that neither they nor the NHS really had suitable services to help.
Evaluation – in practice
Stage 1 – Healthy eating
Effectiveness and usefulness of the programme
Patient satisfaction and reduction in GP visits
Identification of other medical problems
Roll out into primary care – or not...
The work that Professor Ogden and her colleagues did to set up the study provided an excellent blue print for a rollout of such a service on a much wider basis. The manual that came out of the study provides basic food allergy/intolerance training and comprehensive guidance notes for clinic management and session: questionnaires, healthy eating plans, exclusions diets, meal and recipes ideas, guidance on reading food labels and patient symptom charts.
Unfortunately, although the programme was peer reviewed, accredited by the Royal College of Nursing and welcomed by the nursing community, Primary Care Trusts were not willing to undertake the the nurse training costs and it was not financially viable for FAIR to undertake nurse training across the country. As a result, this excellent initiative has sat on the shelf, unused, for the last four years.
Progamme now available to groups who could make use of it
FAIR has therefore now decided to make the manual which came out of the research project, 'The Food Clinic – Nurse Training Manual' available, free of charge, to any group who could make use of it. The only requirement for use is that the manual should be acknowledged as the 'FAIR manual - The Food Clinic Nurse Training Manual.'
To access the manual please click here. If your browser does not automatically download the document to your computer, just 'save as' to wherever you need it and it will download for you.
Report on the research first published in 2008; updated 2012