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Gluten-free prescriptions cut

Gluten-free prescriptions cut

Published at 6:03am 19th August 2016. (Updated at 4:35pm 19th August 2016)

Harrogate health bosses are going to restrict prescriptions for gluten-free food.

The Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has decided that only the most vulnerable people living with coeliac disease should be eligible.

In 2015, the NHS spent £26 million on prescribing gluten-free food, with £16.7 million spent on 840,000 prescriptions for bread.

Prescribing gluten-free products across the Harrogate District currently costs around £90,000 a year, and with the growing financial pressures placed on the NHS, the CCG is reviewing what it funds.

Dr Rick Sweeney, a member of the CCG's Governing Body, said: "I would like to thank all those who responded to the CCG's survey. As a Governing Body, we have made the decision to restrict prescribing gluten-free products due to the significant increase in their availability in supermarkets and via home delivery services.

"The NHS does not provide food on prescription for other groups of patients whose diseases are associated with, or affected by, the type of food they eat, and in line with many neighbouring CCGs across Yorkshire and the Humber, we believe this is the right action to take.

"Feedback from the survey showed us that 43% of respondents live with coeliac disease, with an additional 9% either caring for a child or adult in receipt of gluten-free products on prescription, and understandably they were unhappy with these proposals.

"The CCG recognises that this proposal may not be supported by patients currently receiving gluten-free foods on prescription, and whilst the price of standard retail gluten-free products is now considered affordable, the CCG appreciates it may be less affordable to some. However, the CCG's responsibility is to the whole population of Harrogate and Rural District.

"Through the survey, the CCG received a number of comments around patients who might be classed as vulnerable. The CCG is committed to ensuring these patients are supported by developing guidelines to aid clinical decision-making in general practice to identify these vulnerable patients.

"The CCG will continue to support patients living with coeliac disease in following a gluten-free diet, with advice available through various patient support organisations, like Coeliac UK, dietician support and the Living Well team at North Yorkshire County Council on how to achieve an appropriate diet through natural and manufactured gluten-free foods."

The charity Coeliac UK has raised concerns about the proposals.

Chief Executive Sarah Sleet said: "We have clear evidence from in-depth research that the cost of key gluten-free products such as breads and flours in supermarkets has not reduced. We sent this information to the CCG, but it has been ignored.

"We would urge anyone who will be severely affected by this decision and wishes to make a case for prescriptions as an exception to contact the charity to see how we can take your case forward."

The CCG will introduce the changes in the autumn and will also consider a report on coeliac disease by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence when it's published in October.