The number of gluten free foods available on prescription could soon be restricted in an attempt to cut the primary care prescription bill, following a consultation by the Department of Health.
The public consultation, launched last March, aimed to clarify whether changes should be made to the availability of gluten free foods that can be prescribed in primary care to those diagnosed with gluten sensitivity enteropathies.
Following the consultation the DH has said that prescribing will be restricted to certain foods, which is likely to result in retaining a smaller range of bread and mixes, as preferred products.
The original consultation proposed three options: making no change; to end all prescribing of gluten free foods in primary care; to allow only the prescribing of certain GF foods, such as bread and flour, which is the option set to be adopted by the DH.
A total of 7,941 responses were received, of which 5,420 were patients and 1,150 were healthcare professionals. When asked whether gluten free foods should be available on prescription, 81% said yes, however 70% also agreed that prescribing should be restricted to certain foods.
Respondents suggested a number of options that could be more flexible while still reducing the cost, looking at who should be eligible, what type of products should be included, the quantities and also ways of reducing waste when handling fresh items.
A DH report summarising the responses to the consultation argued that while this provision was necessary when it started in the late 1960s, and the availability to such foods was limited, this is no longer the case. With gluten free foods available in supermarkets, the paper states that patients can now easily obtain them without the need for a prescription.
Using prescription cost analysis, provided by NHS Digital, the report has claimed that changes to the prescribing of gluten free foods could reduce the primary care prescription bill by up to £22.4m each year.