Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500-501)



  Q500  Chairman: Earlier on, Mr Bryson, you spoke about the group of the population who are living in poor socio-economic conditions and the difficulty of educating them to adjust their lifestyle. I wonder if you have any more comments to add to that.

  Mr Bryson: I think one of your colleagues mentioned about possible incentives to do that. Unfortunately we live in a world where often people need some sort of incentive and unless it is possible to explain to them the direct health benefits, some other incentive may be required to try to put the message across. I would never suggest it is easy, but at the moment I am not sure there is enough effort being put into that to try to make sure that people can help themselves to a certain extent.

  Q501  Chairman: If we look at the concepts of genetic and environmental interactions and research do you think eventually we will see a turnaround or even prevention of allergic diseases?

  Professor Custovic: My aim as a physician is to make physicians obsolete; that is what we are there for. Then my career would be fulfilled. Yes, we will get there but if we stop allergies today there will still be a lot of patients for the next 30 to 40 years and the real tragedy of today is this little rule of numbers: we have a conservative estimate of 15 million patients; we have an optimistic estimate of 24.9 allergists in the country. That is a real, real scandal and tragedy of our situation. Our patients need to live three thousand years in order to be able to see allergists. If there is something we could do now, we could make a big difference in a very short period of time. Do I believe we will prevent allergies? I most sincerely hope so because that is what we have devoted our careers to do. It will come too late for the 15 million people who have the disease now and what are we going to do about that now?

  Mr Bryson: Could I partly echo what Professor Custovic has just said? It does not go down very well with colleagues when you say that ultimately you want to reduce the number of them that are required, but that is also part of our philosophy: prevention is far better than cure and some of the work that we want to try to do is to prevent those situations rather than constantly be on the curative side.

  Chairman: Can I thank you all very much indeed for having come today to give evidence to us. You will be sent a transcript in draft form for you to correct if necessary and if there is other information you think the Committee may find helpful after today then please do send it in and we can circulate it to the Committee as part of your evidence from today. Thank you very much indeed.

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