A consultation on the availability of NHS gluten free foods on prescription has been launched by NHS England and will run from 31st March until 22nd June 2017.  Please respond with comments, ideas or experience if you or someone you care for has Coeliac Disease and needs a gluten free diet.  https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/homeopathic/prescribing-gluten-free-foods/

Background facts

  • The gluten free diet is the only available treatment for Coeliac Disease, a life long auto-immune condition affecting 1 in every 100 people, with new cases increasing year-on-year
  • Strict adherence to the diet limits complications of the condition in children such as growth faltering, iron deficiency anaemia and lactose intolerance
  • Approved gluten free foods on prescription include staples such as bread, pasta, flour, rolls and pizza bases and the monthly allowance is controlled by National Prescribing Guidelines
  • Gluten free foods are one of a range of “low-value” treatments being targeted to reduce the NHS prescribing budget
  • 20% of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England have reduced or stopped  prescribing gluten free foods to help balance their books, disproportionately affecting those on low incomes

A spokesperson for NHS England said

“The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, …  underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources, whilst eliminating wastage and improving patient outcomes.”

A number of options have been proposed

  1. no changes to be made to NHS gluten free foods on prescription
  2. end NHS gluten free foods on prescription
  3. restrict NHS gluten free foods on prescription to essentials eg. bread, flour
  4. alternative scheme to support cost difference between shop bought gluten free foods and their gluten containing counterparts

Innovative alternative pilot scheme
A pilot scheme is underway in Yorkshire, where 100 people following a gluten free diet have been issued a chip and pin card providing the cost difference between gluten free foods and the gluten containing counterparts.  Benefits include having access to a wider range of foods; purchasing gluten free foods can be integrated into the usual shop; potential costs-savings to NHS and time-saving for GPs and dispensers.  However, for some people with reduced mobility or with poor access to supermarkets, they are likely not to benefit in this way.   The full evaluation of this pilot scheme will be available later this year.

If you have been affected by CCGs reducing or stopping gluten free foods on prescription please contact prescriptions@coeliac.org.uk for help and support.

Have your say https://consultations.dh.gov.uk/homeopathic/prescribing-gluten-free-foods/