Once again gluten free on prescription is coming under threat with many counties in the UK already having removed gluten free bread and pasta from prescriptions.
It seems that gluten free prescriptions are under threat once again. Already cut in many counties of the UK including Somerset and Norfolk, it now looks like NHS Clinical Commissioners are set to cut 10 "low value" prescriptions, of which gluten free comes in at 9th place with a "low value" cost of £21.88 million.
Gluten free on prescription has been a subject of controversy for a while now with many Coeliacs and non Coeliacs alike wondering why they are still available when there is much more choice in shops. Gluten free prescriptions are a safety net for low income households, disabled and elderly, the prescriptions allow them to get gluten free staples such as pasta and bread. For many the prescriptions work out cheaper than buying the food in supermarkets. When you think a bag of pasta and a loaf of bread costs around £5 in supermarkets it is possible to get up to 8 loaves and a couple of bags of pasta for £10 or less on prescription as long as you are entitled to free prescriptions or have a prepayment card, which works out a lot cheaper than shelf bought products.
A few of the articles that appeared online today pointed out many people entitled to prescriptions are getting them for free due to low income or age, only a small percent will actually be paying full price which is only one of the reasons the NHS is struggling.
According to the BBC
gluten free food prescriptions date back to the 1960's when food wasn't readily available in supermarkets and bread on prescription was a necessity. Nowadays there is a lot more choice in supermarkets, which is only helping to make the gluten free prescriptions obsolete.
Coeliac UK responded to the news with "Research shows that budget and convenience stores, which are relied upon by the most vulnerable such as the elderly, those with disabilities and on low incomes, have virtually no provision." and also stated that not all shops stock gluten free products. While that is true, it is ever expanding in many supermarkets, we can only hope that convenience stores start stocking staples for those who can't reach supermarkets or are in secluded areas. Hopefully the NHS take all angles of gluten free into account and it doesn't lead to people having to eat normal food which could cause very serious health implications just because they can no longer access gluten free easily.
Gluten free food is not the only thing at risk of being removed from prescriptions completely, other medicines are on the list to go too, the biggest value one being Liothyronine, used for under-active thyroids, at a cost of £30.93 million. This item is the highest price on the list and the only one to be more expensive than the cost of gluten free food on the NHS. Other items on the list include Tadafil, a Viagra alternative (£10.51 million),travel vaccines (£9.47 million) and Omega 3 and Fish Oils (£5.65 million, the lowest cost on the list)
Once the initial batch of medicine has been reviewed the NHS Clinical commission wants to put prescription suncream, cough and cold medicine and heartburn medicine under scrutiny too in an attempt to save another 400 million a year.