The Department of Health (DH) has launched a consultation to gather views on the prescribing of gluten-free foods, saying that putting an end to prescribing these items could save the NHS over £25m a year.
This comes after NHS England announced on 29 March 2017 that it is working with clinical commissioning leads to develop national guidelines to drop ‘low priority’ items, such as travel vaccines, omega-3 tablets and some painkillers, from being available on prescription, in an attempt to save the NHS £128m a year.
According to the DH, gluten-free foods, such as bread, flour and pasta, have been available on prescription to patients diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and intolerance since the late 1960s.
But it is now much easier for patients with gluten sensitivity to find gluten-free foods in many supermarkets, where they have become widely available.
James O’Shaughnessy, Conservative MP and member of the House of Lords, says: “The NHS is one of the most efficient health services in the world, but we need to do more to ensure we get the best possible value for taxpayers’ money”.
“Changing the way we prescribe gluten-free food could make an important contribution to saving the NHS millions of pounds a year.”
Several clinical commissioning groups — including Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, and Greater Huddersfield — have already scrapped prescriptions for gluten-free foods on the grounds that they are cheaper for the public to buy than they cost for the NHS to supply them.
The consultation closes on 22 June 2017.