Cuts to gluten free
prescriptions by West Lancashire CCG could cost the NHS more in the long run
NATIONAL charity Coeliac UK is strongly
opposing the proposed cuts to gluten free prescriptions for patients in the
region following the announcement of a consultation by NHS West Lancashire
Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition caused by a reaction to
gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Coeliac UK, believes any cuts
to gluten free prescriptions will leave vulnerable patients with coeliac disease
without support which will affect their ability to stick to the gluten free diet; the only treatment for the condition. The potential serious long term health
complications of not maintaining a gluten free diet include osteoporosis,
infertility and, in some rare cases, small bowel cancer, conditions that could
cost the NHS a lot more in the long run.
The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has calculated that
the cost of gluten free food to the NHS equates to ?194.24 per diagnosed patient
per year, making it an extremely low cost treatment that addresses potential
health inequality in the management of coeliac disease due to the higher cost
and limited availability of gluten free food. Last year West Lancashire CCG
spent a total of ?71,000 on prescribed gluten free foods for patients.
Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK said:- "For someone medically
diagnosed with coeliac disease there is no choice but to stick to a gluten free
diet, day in day out for life and so access to gluten free staples is critical,
and is not as easy as you might think. The expansion of Free From aisles in
large supermarkets masks the reality of very patchy provision. Research
published in 2015 found that budget supermarkets, most frequented by people on
lower incomes and an essential lifeline in rural communities, stocked no gluten
free food. Gluten free food on prescription is a service providing essential NHS
support to help manage a lifelong autoimmune disease. We are particularly
concerned that if approved by West Lancashire CCG, this policy would result in
health inequality meaning a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable."
Whilst gluten free food staples such as pasta, are 3 to 4 times more expensive
than comparable gluten containing products, gram for gram, gluten free bread is
6 times more expensive than regular gluten containing bread in the supermarket.
"Any reduction in the gluten free prescription services for people with coeliac
disease is being based on budgets rather than patient need or clinical evidence.
The provision of gluten free staple food on prescription is a vital element of
the support offered to all patients by the NHS and it is essential to prevent
long term damage to health," explained Ms Sleet.
The charity refutes the claim in the consultation document which states:-
"coeliac patients can alter their diet to replace bread with naturally
gluten free foods like rice and potato."
"Simply switching to alternative carbohydrates such as rice and potatoes
risks malnutrition with bread alone providing between 10 and 20% of our most
important nutrients such as protein, calcium and iron but potatoes and rice only
providing a fraction of this." added Ms Sleet.
The consultation is running until the 24 March 2017 and the survey can be found
charity would like to encourage all those that might be affected to complete the
questionnaire so that their opinions are heard.
In England, prescriptions for gluten free food are not free of charge unless
someone already qualifies for free prescriptions. Currently 81% of CCGs across
the country allow access to gluten free food on prescriptions.
Do you agree with this? Please let us know! Email us
News24@SouthportReporter.com with your thoughts on this topic!