College Chair comments on rising rates of scabies cases seen in general practice

College Chair, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, featured in The Guardian today commenting on reports from dermatologists – corroborated by the latest RCGP Research and Surveillance Centre data - on the growing rates of scabies cases and an apparent shortage in medication needed to treat the condition.

“While not a serious condition, scabies can be very itchy and irritating, and can be easily contracted through close physical contact. If not properly treated, it can spread and increase a patient’s risk of complications like skin infections or make existing skin conditions like eczema worse. It can also affect a patient’s quality of life, so quick treatment is important. Unfortunately, a level of social stigma remains around the condition, likely due to the misconception that it is contracted through poor personal hygiene.

“Since July, GPs have seen a growing rate of scabies presentations – at a consistently higher level than the five-year average and the seasonal norm. This has been particularly pronounced in the North of England. At the end of November, the rate of scabies was 3 cases per 100,000 of the population which is double the seasonal average.

“The treatment for scabies is a topical cream or lotion that can be purchased in pharmacies, or by prescription in general practice. However, there have been reports of shortages in the two most commonly-used medications - permethrin cream and malathion lotion. When any prescribed medication is unavailable, or in short supply, it is worrying for GPs, pharmacists and patients alike.

“GPs and pharmacists are already under enormous pressures to provide care for their patients during the peak season and any medication shortages, even if they are only temporary, make the situation worse.”

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Notes to editors

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