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Latest figures show rates of allergy are increasing throughout the world, affecting up to 30-35% of people at some stage in their lives, according to Allergy UK.
In the UK alone, it is estimated that up to 50% of children are diagnosed with an allergic condition, and that the pattern of allergy is also changing. Initially, the increase was in asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever) but recent studies confirm a significant rise in food allergies.
It is therefore no surprise that Allergy UK Nurse Adviser Holly Shaw says there is an increasing demand for allergy testing and not enough services available. But she warns that setting up an allergy testing service is not to be taken lightly.
‘We’ve seen a rise in calls to the Allergy UK helpline from parents with concerns about food allergies in their children and adults worried about respiratory allergies from things like pets, house dust mites and moulds,’ says Ms Shaw.
‘However,’ she adds, ‘the first thing we do is make it clear that they may not need an allergy test. Often people self-report an allergy – for example, to a certain food – when actually there may be another reason for the problem they are having.’
It is wise to work out if there is local demand for an allergy testing service before you look into setting one up.
Deborah Evans, managing director of consultancy company Pharmacy Complete, says the first step before making an investment in any new service (private or NHS) is to make sure you understand the opportunity in your local area.
‘From a business development perspective, you are considering introducing a new product (the service) to your existing customer market and while you know your customers, it is important not to make any assumptions,’ she advises.
‘Undertaking your market research will be critical to ensure there is a need for the service that your customers will pay for it and to understand how to position and promote the service to optimise take-up.’
You also need to know if there are any similar services locally or online that you may be competing against. With that in mind, Gavin Birchall, founder and managing director of pharmacy marketing company Dose Design and Marketing, suggests doing secondary research.
He says: ‘Look at the documents that relate to local health needs – eg the Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment (PNA) – and then connect with national and local organisations that relate to the conditions you are considering. You can gather a lot of information quickly that will most likely tell you whether you are heading in the right direction.’
Author: Sasa Jankovic