Prescribing gluten-free foods for people with coeliac disease is a costly and bureaucratic waste of GPs’ and patient’s time that should be stopped, according to independent prescribing experts.
An editorial in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) argues that the process of GPs prescribing gluten free foods such as bread and flour is outmoded. It recommends this should be replaced with a system such as vouchers that allows people to buy the products from supermarkets.
According to the bulletin, the NHS prescription scheme for gluten free foods was started in the 1960s when it was difficult for patients to access gluten free foods. However, now that gluten free foods are available in supermarkets, there is no longer a need for the £27m a year system, which requires patients to get prescriptions from the community pharmacy.
The DTB says that with growing pressure on NHS budgets it is right to question this arrangement, and it is also questionable on health grounds whether doctors should be providing prescriptions for gluten free cake mixes and sweet biscuits.
Coeliac disease patients deserve support for obtaining gluten free foods, which can cost up to 500% more than gluten-containing equivalents, but this can be done without having to go through the GP or pharmacy, the Bulletin editorial says.
‘Is it time to consider the use of food vouchers that could be redeemed against gluten-free foods at any outlet, or the provision of personalised budgets for people with coeliac disease, so that the supply of food would no longer be a medical issue?,’ the editorial asks.
‘We would urge commissioners to consider redesigning services to ensure that there is ongoing support for people with coeliac disease and to remove the bureaucratic process of prescribing food from primary care.’