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Gluten-free foods: changes to availability on prescription


From December 2018, NHS regulations around the prescribing of gluten-free foods will be changing.


Following a national consultation the government has decided to restrict prescribing of gluten-free foods to certain brands of bread and mixes. All other gluten-free or very low gluten food items, including biscuits, cakes, cereals, cooking aids, grains and pasta, will no longer be available on the NHS. This means your GP will only be able to prescribe from a specific list of breads and mixes, they will not be able to prescribe other gluten-free items, and pharmacies will no longer dispense them. We kindly ask that you do not request these items on prescription.


A wide range of gluten-free foods, including breads and flours, will remain available to buy from supermarkets along with other naturally gluten-free foods such as potatoes, rice, vegetables, rice noodles etc.


Why are these changes being made?


The NHS is constantly looking for ways to save money without impacting on patient care. In recent years the variety and accessibility of gluten-free food in supermarkets has improved dramatically. Prescribed gluten-free items cost the NHS more than double the supermarket price of similar items, and it is unclear why.


The basis of this policy is not to penalise those who suffer from coeliac disease. Gluten-free bread remains available on prescription as it costs more than equivalent breads in supermarkets, and bread is considered to be a staple food in the UK. The addition of mixes allows people to cook or bake other foods. Providing some support towards the increased cost of maintaining a gluten-free diet helps make the average weekly food bill similar to that of the rest of our population.


If you would like more information about this change, please see the NHS England Frequently Asked Questions related to the prescribing of gluten-free foods in primary care, available via this link, or contact your pharmacy or the practice. You can find out more about gluten-free diets from Coeliac UK

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