Should Prescriptions Be Scrapped?

Should Prescriptions Be Scrapped?

Gluten free prescriptions have come under fire once again and left us wondering if they are once again at risk of being scrapped.

Posted On: 18th August 2015
Tagged with: Coeliac, Daily Mail, Gluten Free, NHS, Prescriptions

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Over the last few days prescription food has been making the headlines, starting with the Daily Mail and their untrue facts that we get doughnuts and biscotti (have they tried finding these products gluten free, we know of a handful of places that do doughnuts, nowhere that does biscotti, and certainly not on prescription) on prescription which lead to them later pointing out to many consumers it wasn't just gluten free food they were targeting but also other food on prescription such as high protein and diabetic. The Mirror also carried on from the Daily Mail's lead copying almost word for word the "facts" the Daily Liar, I mean Mail, had already shared, the main incorrect fact in both being "nearly £116million last year handing out gluten-free cakes, pizzas, bread and biscuits", as Coeliac UK kindly corrected both papers, gluten free only cost £26 Million, not £116 that tried have us believe.

The whole saga has led to a debate on "what is the future of gluten free prescriptions". Since 2013 it has been publicised that a lot of people in the medical profession want gluten free prescriptions scrapped and instead replaced with a voucher scheme which can be redeemed in supermarkets. It is still a highly popular argument and in the long run would probably save the NHS money but lets looks at why we should keep gluten free on prescription? These are our top four reasons we think they should be kept.

Consumer Cost
Ok, it's not helping the NHS, but isn't the NHS there to help UK residents? Yes it is costing the government £26 million a year, however for consumers as long as they have a prescription prepayment card Coeliacs can get around £30 worth of food (based on supermarket costs) for £10 on one prescription. We looked more closely at the cost of prescriptions in this blog from a few months ago, so we won't go into it too much here, but it's definitely a valid reason for keeping it, Coeliac is an auto immune disease, no suffer asked for it, therefore we didn't ask to pay £2.50 for a tiny loaf. Prepay cards keep it cheap for those entitled. And not forgetting Coeliac often runs in the family, the cost of so much gluten free, especially when it comes to the staples such as bread and pasta can become extortionate, two people, one free child and one adult on a prepaid card costs £10 a month for £60 worth food, no brainer why prescriptions win in terms of consumer cost.

It's an auto immune disease
Plain and simple. NHS pays out between £3-5K per year per person for methadone in an attempt to clean up drug addicts, in 2008 it was believed there were over 300k addicts on methadone, therefore the NHS is paying a minimum of £900 million for prescription medication to deal with a self inflicted problem. Compared to that a meagre £26 million is going towards Coeliacs, people with a medical condition they didn't ask for, an immunity disorder which can only be controlled by diet. Logic is that one. Absolute zero in our opinion.

Rural areas
People in rural areas with little to no access to supermarkets are reliant upon prescriptions, if we look at the broader picture, the bigger supermarkets do more gluten free than the rest, but the bigger ones are found mostly around city areas, next size down found in mostly towns you find have some but only one or two choices of bread, usually a couple of shelves holding all the free from, not much at all. After this you are basically screwed, some Tesco Express' stock one or two items, co-op the same, after that you're reliant on the naturally gluten free things, unless you can get prescriptions of your local village GP.

Prescriptions available in Wales, Scotland and Ireland are free
Gluten free prescriptions are free everywhere else in the UK, yet they want to scrap ours in England when most of us at least pay something towards them even if it's just £10 a month (sorry lovely Scottish, Welsh and Irish people, no offence intended to your free gluten free!). The Scottish government even has a scheme for gluten free food service, definitely no talk of scrapping gluten free prescriptions round the rest of the UK, so why should we lose ours!

With some GP's claiming they are being used like "bakers" when it comes to prescribing gluten free and others even refusing to prescribe gluten free food, it is becoming a very unstable area in terms of prescriptions, for consumers who are entitled and do get gluten free on prescription it is a no brainer and we are sure if those claiming it is a waste of NHS resources were reliant on the prescriptions themselves they would be saying the same. However as it stands they don't think that way, with Norfolk already scrapped prescriptions due to cost. There are a few reasons professionals are calling for the scrapping but here are the three main reasons GP's and medical experts are calling for it.

"The cost to the NHS is getting out of hand"
The obvious one, but as we already pointed out £900 million for methadone, £26 million to help people with a disease they didn't ask for...we'll say no more on that one.

"Gluten free is readily available nowadays"
In the 60's gluten free canned bread was on prescription as it wasn't available in shops, nowadays it is. If you live in a village or away from any kind of supermarket the statement doesn't hold true, it's a near impossibility to get gluten free products. Live in a city or larger town, yes it is more readily available, however prescription prepay cards make prescriptions more cost effective for consumers and often also more options in terms of the staple products.

"People on other diets don't get prescription food"
We may semi agree on this one, you can't get dairy free, egg free, nut free on prescription. So why do we get gluten free. Again we think it all comes back to cost but we do have to agree that people who go into anaphalactic shock with certain foods don't get specialised food on prescription, however they do get epi-pens, so they do get the thing they need to control the allergy if affected, so in a way they are still getting what they need on prescription.

We think scrapping prescriptions would lead to huge problems especially for people who struggle financially to afford the gluten free critical to their health, let us know what you think on the issue. I am not entitled to prescriptions but if you are I'm sure you're screaming at the papers about the uproar they are causing, we want to know how you feel about the prospect of losing gluten free prescriptions, leave us a comment with your thoughts!

Your Comments

Essential gluten free foods cost on average 3x 'normal' foods. So if I buy 2 sml loaves and a box of cereal it costs on average £8-9. A person buying non gluten products would pay under £5. This is not equitable particularly for people on low incomes. If gluten free products were comparable in price to non gluten free products I would be happy to buy them but they're not. I also believe if essential gluten free food was not available some coeliacs would deviate from the diet due to cost. This would result in a rise in gluten related health needs and cost the NHS more and also cause lost days in work and increases in disabilities. Coeliacs who eat gluten become deficient in iron, calcium, magnesium etc and are prone to oestoporosis, sml bowel cancer and other serious conditions. The coeliac condition is an autoimmune condition and not liaised by lifestyle behaviours yet the NHS continue to fund conditions caused through smoking, excessive drinking etc yet receive prescription drugs.

Janet - 18th August 2015

One problem is we are being charged to much for gluten free food , the ingredients are not much more than other foods, the quality of GF supermarket food is poor. If the quality & the cost of GF food from supermarkets was better there could be a case for some people buying there own, but for kids & old people never.

Robert Seymour - 18th August 2015

I've just been diagnosed celiac and can't understand how drug addicts get everything the supposedly need. When I have this and can cause damage to my body if I don't follow the proper diet

Samantha prentice - 18th August 2015

I think staples should be on prescription only, bread, flour, pizza bases and pasta. I do not get anything on prescription myself!

Sally Snelling - 18th August 2015

Excellent article, although I'm afraid we actually have no such thing as free gluten free food here in Ireland! It used to be available under the Drugs Payment Scheme but that was scrapped several years ago. Now we just get some tax relief if we save all our receipts - the UK system is much kinder to coeliacs. Perhaps you meant Northern Ireland? Everything else you said is perfectly true. I find nowadays that gluten free items are increasingly viewed as a luxury product. I had someone in a supermarket once wonder why I was buying such items on my meagre student budget when I could get cheaper ordinary items... all you can do is try to educate people! What you said about costs compounding in families is definately true, and its a daily struggle for those of us for whom this very expensive diet is not a choice. I love your blog!

Lisa - 2nd November 2015

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