UK Health Organizations Assess Availability of Gluten-Free Foods on Prescription

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03 Apr 2017 --- The Department of Health has launched a formal consultation on possible changes to the availability of gluten free foods on prescription, suggesting that due to the increased availability of gluten free products, the need for an NHS prescription has greatly decreased.

The paper states that “Gluten-free (GF) foods are available on prescription to patients diagnosed with gluten sensitivity, and have been since the late 1960s when their availability was extremely limited.”

“A wide range of GF foods is now readily available in supermarkets and other food outlets, meaning that the ability of patients to obtain these foods without a prescription has greatly increased.”

“Our consultation proposes options for restricting the availability of GF products on NHS prescription.”

However, the British Dietetic Association (BDA) has stated that it will be submitting a robust consultation response to argue that the NHS should continue to provide staple gluten-free products for those vulnerable patients such as children, elderly and those least able to afford commercial gluten free products.

The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association for dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals with over 8,500 members. The BDA is also an active trade union.

The BDA state that, “children’s development and growth could seriously be impaired by not having access to gluten free products on prescription, which will then impact on micronutrient deficiencies. The impact of removing these products from prescription will have the greatest effect on the most vulnerable.”

The NICE Quality Standard on coeliac disease recognizes that "gluten-free products are more expensive and are usually only available from larger retailers, making access more difficult for people on low incomes or with limited mobility.”

“As coeliac disease can affect more than one member of a family it can also be an additional burden on the family budget.”

Lisa Vokes, Chair of the BDA Gastroenterology Specialist Group said: “A complete removal of gluten free products from prescription is not the answer.”

“There are alternative models that could be implemented, such as pharmacy led schemes or voucher schemes with regular reviews with a dietitian.”

“Placing dietitians at the heart of the process can improve effectiveness and efficiency while maintaining an appropriate standard of provision for patients.”

“Dietitians are experts in nutrition and therefore the best-placed healthcare professionals to lead on effective and efficient nutritional care.” 

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