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£22m spent on GF products could support frontline NHS services

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2 February 2018

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The whole £22m currently spent on gluten-free (GF) products could be spent on frontline NHS services, NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) chief executive Julie Wood has said.

Following a public consultation on whether any changes should be made to prescribing legislation on GF foods, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) decided to retain GF breads and flour mixes.

‘Missed opportunity’

The whole £22m currently spent on gluten-free (GF) products could be spent on frontline NHS services, NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) chief executive Julie Wood has said.

Following a public consultation on whether any changes should be made to prescribing legislation on GF foods, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) decided to retain GF breads and flour mixes.

‘Missed opportunity’

Ms Wood said that ‘in a time when NHS resources are stretched to their limit, this is a missed opportunity’ to inject money into frontline NHS services.

She continued: ‘While our members would have preferred the DHSC to have gone further and removed the availability of all gluten free products on prescription, we welcome the decision that does limit a significant proportion of the current spend.

‘On a daily basis Clinical Group Commissioners (CCGs) are forced to make difficult decisions that balance the needs of the individual against those of their entire local population.

‘As a result, there are some tough choices that have to be made and many of our members have already taken the decision to go further than the DHSC’s decision.’

In July 2017, there were 78 CCGs following Coeliac UK guidelines, which are used to decide the number of units a patient should receive on a monthly basis, and 25 that ended all GF foods on prescription.

The DHSC said that ‘this regional variation is leading to inequality of access’.

Delivering savings

Charity Coeliac UK and the DHSC argue that restricting ‘GF prescriptions to certain foods would deliver savings to the NHS whilst ensuring patient health isn’t impacted’.

Chief executive of Coeliac UK Sarah Sleet said that the charity has built up evidence over many years around the issues of cost, availability and nutritional contribution of gluten free staples in managing a lifelong gluten free diet’.

She continued: ‘The vast majority of consultation responses from patients and clinicians agreed that access to gluten free staples is key to helping patients, particularly the most vulnerable, keep to a gluten free diet and avoid expensive health complications as a result.’

Ms Sleet said that the charity would ‘identify CCGs that have removed access to prescriptions and challenge those to review and reverse their actions’.

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