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DH: Banning gluten-free food scripts 'will save £10m' worth of GP appointments

The NHS could save almost £26m a year by scrapping GP prescribing of all gluten-free foods, according to the Department of Health.

An additional £10m could be saved through patients no longer needing to attend GP appointments to get their gluten-free prescriptions, it suggested, as it launched a consultation into completely ending the practice.

The consultation follows an announcement made earlier this week which said NHS England was considering stopping prescribing of low value items available in pharmacies and shops, such as gluten-free foods, painkillers and travel vaccines.

Gluten-free foods including bread, flour and pasta are currently available on prescription to patients diagnosed with gluten sensitivity and have been since the 1960s when they were not widely available.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘Gluten-free foods are now sold in many supermarkets and a wider range of naturally GF food types is also available.

‘Evidence from clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) has also shown that the NHS pays much more than the consumer for the same gluten-free products.The consultation looks at a new, national approach, creating consistency in gluten-free prescribing across the country.’

Health minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said: ‘Changing the way we prescribe gluten-free food could make an important contribution to saving the NHS millions of pounds a year.’

Pulse has already revealed multiple CCGs implementing local restrictions on the prescribing of gluten-free foods and over-the-counter medications.

For example, NHS Norwich and North Norfolk CCGs has already ended the prescribing of gluten free foods, except in exceptional circumstances.

The DH said that spend on gluten-free prescribing fell from £400,000 in 2015 to 2016, to just £21,000 and that the decision had been well received by GPs in Norfolk and by members of the public.

The NHS England review into low value prescription items, aimed at cutting £400m off the annual prescribing budget, will launch in April.

Readers' comments (12)

  • Do patients ever need to attend appts to collect GF scripts? Certainly not here and we are not paid by appt in any case so how might it save £10m? Do they actually talk to GPs before throwing figures about?

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  • I agree with Rosie. It will save money on the prescription bill but very little in terms of appointments

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  • Vinci Ho

    There is a need to make the figure of saving 'substantial' .We are not surprised how this government arrived with its statistics , are we?

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  • Since when has a patient EVER come to a GP apt for gluten free prescriptions!!!

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  • If anyone is concerned about the poor with coeliac perhaps a monthly benefit cash payment to those with coeliac could be given. It would cost much less than the current system.

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  • SSRI s should be next.

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  • Knowledge is Porridge

    Of course they need to buy their own. NHS needs to be more robust to protect its economic feasibility, and the politicians can't be honest about tough choices because they will get booted out if they mention uncomfortable realities of spending what we can afford on the NHS rather than what we would like.
    Statins.
    Contraception.
    Depression.
    Hypertension.
    We could hand plenty of stuff over...It'll be through an app rather than a person soon. Technology will rescue us one day...I hope!

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    you also need GPs in order to have GP appointments.

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  • Wrong! Pharmacy led supply schemes for gluten free foods for people with coeliac disease have meant that it's been a decade since I last had to sit down with a patient and help them choose from a list of Juvela and Glutafin and Schar products. I suspect the plan to withdraw all gluten free foods on prescription will create MORE work for me in the short term, because patients won't like it and will make an appointment to grumble to an actual person or ask me to write letters to say that they are a special case and should still get some of their food on the NHS.

    It may not be a bad decision on principle, but I'm sure the real savings even on prescriptions will be miniscule, and that £10m of GP time is just a number plucked from the air.

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  • DoH main goal is brainwashing people after muddling their heads with concocted statistics. Poor John on the streets doesn't know that the 10mln figure was farted out of desperation by JH's cronies to show something positive is being done by the govt. Try harder, maybe the ordinary John's will believe in you pavements of gold too.

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