Dr Chris Steele calls for action on coeliac disease

ITV This Morning doctor and complementary health supporter, Dr Chris Steele MBE,has handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street, calling on the Government to help improve the diagnosis of coeliac disease.

Steele just been diagnosed with the condition.

The petition, signed by 8,783 people, is asking the Government to find the 500,000 people in the UK who are at risk of serious of damage to their health from undiagnosed coeliac disease by introducing a target for diagnosis of the disease in the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) of the GP contract.

One in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease but only one in 8, or 12.5%, of these has been diagnosed. Currently GPs do not have a target in their contract to diagnose coeliac disease.

There is no cure or medication for coeliac disease and the only treatment is a life-long, strict gluten-free diet. Without a gluten-free diet, coeliac disease can lead to infertility, multiple miscarriages, osteoporosis and bowel cancer.

Steele, resident doctor on ITV’s This Morning, has been ambassador of the charity, Coeliac UK, for the past three years. Ironically, in January 2010, Dr Steele announced live on ITV’s This Morning that he had been tested and subsequently diagnosed with coeliac disease.

“I have supported the need to raise awareness of diagnosing coeliac disease for many years but never thought that I would be diagnosed myself! It is a condition often over looked and misdiagnosed by GPs, which has resulted in half a million people in the UK currently undiagnosed. Consequently, people are suffering unnecessarily for many years which can also lead to an increase risk of osteoporosis and bowel cancer,” said Steele

The symptoms of coeliac disease range from the mild to the severe and vary between individuals. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, diarrhoea, tiredness, anaemia, headaches, mouth ulcers, weight loss – but not in all cases, skin problems, depression, joint or bone pain and nerve problems.