South Gloucestershire and North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are seeking people’s views on gluten-free (GF) food prescribing.
The consultation launched on 13 February and runs until 17 March. Comments are especially welcome from people who have coeliac disease and currently receive gluten-free food on prescription.
The NHS in South Gloucestershire and North Somerset pays for GF food prescriptions for people diagnosed with coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis, a skin condition linked to coeliac disease. In total, the prescriptions cost the two CCGs approximately £315,000 a year.
North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, in common with other parts of the UK, are facing a significant increase in demand for all types of local health and care services. This means that health and care budgets are being stretched even further. GF food prescribing was introduced many years ago at a time when awareness of coeliac disease was lower and GF foods were not widely available. However, the foods can now be obtained in most supermarkets at a lower cost than that paid by the NHS.
Reflecting these changes, the CCGs’ preferred option is to stop prescribing to people aged over 18 and offer a limited list of “staple” foods such as bread and pasta to people aged under 18.
"Gluten free products have been available on the NHS for around 40 years. However, we believe that modern improvements in gluten free options in supermarkets has made it possible to eat a gluten free diet without foods being specially prescribed on the NHS. A number of CCGs across the country have reviewed their position on prescribing gluten free foods; we are not alone in looking at this area of prescribing in light of the financial pressure the NHS is under."
"The CCGs’ preferred option would be to stop prescribing to people aged over 18, while offering a limited list of ‘staple’ foods to people aged under 18. We would continue to provide support and advice to patients with coeliac disease through our GPs practices, community dieticians and gastroenterology departments in local hospitals. No decisions have been taken yet and want to hear people’s views before we approve any changes, whether they live with coeliac disease or not."
- Mel Green, Head of Medicines Management at South Gloucestershire CCG
"We believe that making these changes are the right thing to do at a time when the NHS is under considerable financial pressure. However, it is really important that we consult patients, staff, partner organisations and wider public so that we fully understand the range of views before any decision is made. The questions in our consultation will allow us to do this and we would like to hear your views on this proposed change, whether or not you are a patient living with coeliac disease."
- Tom Gregory, Medicines Optimisation Pharmacist at North Somerset CCG
Coeliac disease is a common condition that affects approximately one in every 100 people in the UK. Gluten, a protein which is present in foods such as pasta, bread and cereal, can cause damage to the small intestine and disrupt the body’s ability to absorb nutrients for those who have coeliac disease.
Your feedback will be used to inform decisions on the services which will be provided across South Gloucestershire and North Somerset for patients with coeliac disease.
More information on coeliac disease, including symptoms and treatments, can be found on the NHS Choices website.