Charity launches online allergen training course for hospital ward staff


An anaphylaxis charity which offers training and support on food allergy safety has launched a new online e-learning course for hospital ward staff.

The Anaphylaxis Campaign, which already provides several free and paid for allergy courses for individuals, schools and healthcare professionals, developed the new course after a patient safety alert issued by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency in January 2020. The alert highlighted the lack of allergy awareness in hospital settings, putting patients with food allergies at risk.

Between May 10, 2017 and May 10, 2019, 55 hospital Trusts reported 77 incidents relating to allergens in hospital, three of which involved the patient going into anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially life-threatening condition. Out of these incidents, 51 were due to an incorrect meal being given to the patient and 13 were due to inappropriate menu choice, either by the patient or staff member. Other causes were outdated allergen information, patient allergies not being communicated to kitchen staff, incorrect advice from kitchen staff and conflicting information regarding a patient’s allergy.

Although it is mandatory for NHS organisations to report patient safety incidents which result in severe harm or death, food allergy incidents may not be seen as causing severe harm.

The Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food also highlighted the need for greater awareness of food allergies and delegates. At the Hospital Caterers Association’s Leadership & Development Forum at the end of March, delegates heard the moving presentation from Nadim and Tanya Ednan-Laperouse, whose daughter, Natasha, died after suffering a severe allergic reaction from eating a sandwich that had not been appropriately labelled. An emotional Nadim said that hospitals should be a place where people can be confident that the food served to them is safe and will not harm them. The ongoing tragedy of people dying as a result of an allergic reaction to something they have eaten has to stop. “It is not acceptable,” he said. Continual, ongoing training for staff is an essential part of this, especially within a hospital where there are many risk points within the system.

The new Anaphylaxis Campaign AllergyWise for Hospital Ward Staff has been designed to help nurses, healthcare assistants, ward managers, dietitians and other ward staff to improve their knowledge of food allergies and ensure the right meal gets to the right patient.

The course, which takes around two hours to complete, covers how to provide emergency treatment in case of an allergic reactions and understand how to safeguard vulnerable patients who are at risk of anaphylaxis. Staff will learn:

  • • • About the practical management of food allergies on a hospital ward
  • • • About common allergens and common causes of severe allergic reactions
  • • • About allergen avoidance management and how to reduce cross-contamination risks 
  • • • How to recognise the signs and symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, and what to do in an emergency.

The course includes quick tests, interactive diagrams and videos for an easier, more engaging learning experience. The course does not need to be completed in one sitting as progress is saved. This is a free course, but students can purchase a certificate once completed for £6.

Simon Williams, Chief Executive of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, says: “Being in hospital can been a very scary and isolating time without the added worry of a life-threatening allergic reaction and recent stats show that this is a big concern.

“Our AllergyWise courses address the growing need for training and understanding what to do in an emergency. This new course has been developed to help hospital staff with the knowledge and understanding to keep patients with serious allergies safer.”

Tanya Wright, Specialist Allergy Dietitian at St Mary’s Hospital London, says:

“This is an excellent course and the format is very engaging. The quizzes and final quiz at the very end are really useful.”

Register for the AllergyWise for Hospital Ward Staff course here.

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