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Prescription Lowdown

Not sure how gluten free prescriptions work, have a nosy at this blog to find out a bit more information.

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Added 26th June 2015

Updated 10th November 2020

Prescription Lowdown
Gluten free prescriptions have been around for years, but with NHS cuts looming and North Norfolk cutting gluten free prescriptions completely from this week we decided to give you a low down on the workings and the costs to Coeliacs and the NHS.

For people eligible to recieve gluten free prescriptions it may be cheaper than supermarket shopping, when one prescription item equates to 8 loaves of bread which costs just over £8, and you can also get pasta, cereal, and in some cases even biscuits and pizza bases are still available on presciption too, you could potentially get at leat £40 of products a month on prescription. If you play it smart you can also get a prepayed presciption card for 12 months in which you could claim an unlimited amount of prescriptions for just £104 in a year (including gluten free food and medicines), which in the long run in a lot cheaper than in the supermarket where 1 loaf of bread is roughly £2. Over 12 months just for a loaf of bread a week, it would cost you the same as a prepayed prescription!

Gluten free prescriptions can be very confusing, the age of the person depends on how many units they are entitled to, for example a child aged between 15-18 is entitled to 18 units a month, a woman aged 19-74 is entitled too 14 and a man aged 60-74 is entitled to 16. Different food items use different about of units - 400g of bread is 1 unit, 500g flour are 2 units and cereals are 1.5 units. The following are some examples of entitlement:-

Age rangeUnitsExample prescription
Child 15-18188x loaves of bread, 3x 500g pasta, 2x 300g cereal, 1x box crackers
Woman 19-74146x 400g loaves of bread, 1x 500g pasta, 2x 500g oats, 1x box crackers
Man 60-74168x 400g loaves bread, 2x 500g pasta, 2x 500g oats, 1x crispbreads

Now we are going to expand on the costs of the prescriptions costs versus supermarket costs, we will use the same age ranges as above so you can look back at the exact prescription to see what you would be getting for the cost.

To work out the costs we will base bread prices off Genius, cereal off Doves Farm, oats off Nairns and both crackers and pasta off Glutafin for prescription.

In high street shopping we will work out the value of the complete prescription from Sainsburys using the products from the same manufacturers as on prescription however we will subsitite Glutafin pasta to Doves (Glutafin available on prescription but not in supermarket, Doves, the opposite), and crackers/crispbreads substituted to DS (same problem we have with pasta)

Age rangePrescription costHigh Street Cost
Child 15-18£32.80 (or works out at £10.40 with a prepayment card)£24.00
£6.00 pasta
£6.00 cereal
£1.75 crackers
Total £37.75
Woman 19-74£32.80 (or works out at £10.40 with a prepayment card)£18.00
£2.00 pasta
£4.00 oats
£1.75 crackers
Total £25.75
Man 60-74£32.80 (or works out at £10.40 with a prepayment card)£24.00 bread
£4.00 pasta
£4.00 oats
£1.50 crispbreads
Total £33.50

From that we can see that unless you get a prepayment card getting prescriptions isn't really worth the hassle UNLESS you get a prepayment card than you are making savings of up to £349 in a year. So if you are still entitled to prescriptions please make sure you get a prepayment card otherwise you could be potentially losing money, especially if you are female... if you don't have a prepayment card you are actually spending more by getting your gluten free food on prescription!

As human beings it is natural that we think of ourselves first but as we know the NHS has been in trouble for years, for Coeliacs prescriptions may be cheaper in some instances however what if we think in terms of the NHS?

Did you know that pharmacy's pay in excess of £110 JUST for 8 loaves of bread, plus delivery? So you are paying £37 for those loaves plus extras, that £37 doesn't even cover the cost of delivering your bread! Who covers the rest of the prices, we've only managed to find out the cost of a bread delivery, if we guesstimate that each product costs £100 thats £400 for ONE prescription. And you thought gluten free in supermarkets was expensive!

North Norfolk has already stopped gluten free on prescription, if there are only 100 Coeliacs there (presumably the figure is actually much bigger than this), the NHS would be saving £4,000, since the NHS plan on cutting back by £27 million. Lets look at the maths for NHS savings. The population of England is roughly 53 million people, according to Coeliac UK 1% of the population are diagnosed Coeliac, all diagnosed Coeliacs are entitled to gluten free prescriptions at the moment. 1% of the population is roughly 530,000 people. If a prescription costs £400, that is £2.1 million the NHS is paying out of gluten free much do they get back off that? I'm not even going to work it out, we are talking less than 20%. And not forgetting the amount of people diagnosed is increasing each year as recognition grows, last year diagnoses increased 20 fold, as that grows prescription figures will grow! £2.10 might not sound a lot but when the cuts are being made, it is still fairly substantial

Since 2013 there has been lots of talk about gluten free been taken off prescription with some counties cutting the units down substantially, yes a lot don't like it, but with the cost in supermarkets nearly equalling our prescription costs there isn't that much to whine about (unless you have that excellent prepaid card), lets face the truth here, these days Coeliacs have a substantial choice in supermarkets and you don't have to find room in the freezer for 8 loaves (or up to 24 when the pharmacy messes the prescriptions up). With the internet and free from fairs you can get gluten free goodies at low cost and even find 100's of products you didn't know existed and can't get on prescription.

Gluten free at the moment if hanging on by it's fingernails but sadly we think gluten free will be off prescriptions sooner rather than later, now one area has taken the plunge it's only a matter of time until the rest of England follows. A popular suggestion is for food vouchers to take the place of prescriptions, cutting pharmacy charges but still allowing Coeliacs access to their "medicine".

EDIT 26/6/2015: Figure ammendments

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