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Changes to gluten-free products supply arrangements

Homepage » News » Changes to gluten-free products supply arrangements

Changes to gluten-free products supply arrangements

Posted on Tuesday 22nd May 2018

A recent national consultation on the availability of gluten-free foods on NHS prescription agreed to limit the range of products available on prescription to bread and bread mix products only.

This means that Gluten Free foods from the following categories will no longer be available on prescription; biscuits, cereals, cooking aids, grains/flours and pasta.

NHS North Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the organisation responsible for planning and buying healthcare and health services, will change its arrangements for the supply of gluten-free products to this effect from 1 July 2018.

The current NHS system for providing gluten-free products was introduced in the late 1960s, at a time when there was often no other way to obtain them. In the past few years the range and price of gluten free products available in supermarkets has improved dramatically.

We recognise that some specialist gluten-free products, like bread and bread mixes, do still cost more, so our aim is to help patients keep their weekly food bills broadly in line with the average.

It is worth noting that commercially produced gluten free products are not required at every meal. There are various alternative foods which are naturally gluten free, such as potatoes, rice and some noodles.

More detailed information on the outcome of the consultation is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/availability-of-gluten-free-foods-on-nhs-prescription|


Why fund only bread and bread mixes?

The decision was taken to fund bread and bread mixes as bread is considered to be a staple food in the UK and the gluten-free breads are more costly than the gluten-containing equivalents in the supermarkets. This is in line with national guidelines.

Why are only some brands of bread and bread mixes included?

We have included all brands that are available as a stock item to local pharmacies from the majority of local wholesalers without restrictions on minimum order.  We have excluded products that have additional administration charges, delivery or other charges added to the list price as these costs will be incurred by the NHS and mean that the single products end up being significantly more expensive to the NHS than if they were purchased from a supermarket.

Why can’t I get my gluten-free products from the supermarket on prescription?

It would be nice if we could do this – unfortunately the way the NHS works means that only pharmacies or dispensing doctors’ practices are able to supply products on behalf of the NHS.

Are you reducing Units?

No, units are remaining the same as the current local guidelines as recommended by Coeliac UK.

Cost of gluten-free products to the NHS

Gluten-free products are more expensive than gluten-containing products but it is still unclear why the NHS is charged so much for gluten-free products. There is no obvious reason as to why gluten-free products supplied by the NHS cost more than double the supermarket price of similar items.

Why have you focused on gluten-free foods?

The NHS has always had to make decisions on the fairest way to spend its resources, and it is important to recognise that conditions have changed substantially since these products were first prescribed in the 1960s. We will continue to provide support with the aim of ensuring that weekly food bills remain broadly comparable with the average spend for non-coeliac people.

It is common for there to be some level of restriction on the range of items that can be supplied under the NHS. Examples of other areas where this applies include the provision of synthetic wigs (but not real‑hair wigs), dentures, crowns and bridges (but not dental implants), basic spectacle frames (but not necessarily the most fashionable ones).

Posted on Tuesday 22nd May 2018


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