Gluten free prescriptions in UK

The British Dietectic Association (BDA) has supported the urge to give out free gluten free staples on prescription in the UK.

A Newsnight programme on BBC2 has alleged that two gluten free pizza bases could possibly cost the National Health Service (NHS) as high as £34 (roughly RS. 5000 in Pakistani currency). The NHS has already spent £27m on gluten-free prescriptions last year.

As medical guidelines say so, such items may already be prescribed to those who are clinically diagnosed with coeliac disease. However, with tough economic circumstances and tight budgets, some UK Primary Care Trusts are attracted to the prospect of cutting back on this area and threaten the availability of ‘free from’ foods for coeliac disease sufferers.

There have been causes of concern for the availability and price of gluten free products for customers.

Coeliac UK said that gluten free foods were too expensive for the NHS and general consumers.

They said: “It is important to highlight that in England, prescriptions for gluten-free food are not free of charge unless a person qualifies for free prescriptions.

“Agreement on the reasonable cost of products is made at a national level. We are aware that NHS commissioners have come across evidence of additional local charges being added to products and as a result are restricting access to gluten-free items. The patient is losing out as a result”.

The BDA also said that the gluten free staple foods should be available on prescription to all those suffering from the coeliac disease and the prescribing guide should be used when prescribing particular amounts.

BDA says it openly supported and encouraged dieticians to lead and engage in designing and delivering new models of supply which could potentially include a pharmacy supply scheme – a multi-disciplinary approach involving dieticians, medicine managers and local doctors.

The firm said: “Accessing gluten-free breads, flours and pasta in the supermarkets is not as easy as people think. Such products have been shown to be virtually absent from budget and convenience stores and where they are available, they will cost three to four times more than their gluten-containing equivalents. This will add many hundreds of pounds to the annual shopping bill making them unaffordable for vulnerable patients”.

Lorna Gardner, a member of the BDA’s Gastroenterology Specialist Group, agreed that the availability of gluten free products at retail level was slightly patchy.

She also shed light about whether products that are sold in retail outlets were as nutritious as products prescribed.

She said: “The cost and availability of gluten free products can be a cause of incomplete dietary compliance and research has found limited availability of gluten free products across different retail outlets.

“Coeliac patients obtain a greater percentage of their intake of nutrients such as fibre, calcium, iron, carbohydrate and energy from specialist gluten free products on prescription compared with retail-based alternatives”.

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