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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-02-17

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

Local News Report  - Mobile Page


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 online.

The 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 to with your thoughts on this topic!


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Southport Reporter (R) Bourder




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