NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has joined the growing number of CCGs restricting the prescription of gluten free foods.
Following a consultation, the CCG’s Governing Body, which includes local GPs, made the decision at a meeting on 28 July.
Over half (53%) of the consultation’s respondents were patients, or the carers of patients, who currently receive prescribed gluten free products. The majority of these respondents disagreed with the CCG’s proposals.
Of the 42% of respondents who agreed with the proposals, 61% did not have a diagnosis of Coeliac Disease.
Despite this, from 1 September, GPs will only be able to prescribe gluten free foods to those in “exceptional circumstances”.
Dr Charles Parker, GP and Clinical Chair for the CCG said: “The CCG Governing Body has made the decision to stop the prescription of gluten free products to all patients, apart from those in exceptional circumstance. This is mainly due to a significant increase in their availability in the community, both in store and via home delivery services.
He added: “I would like to reassure respondents that all individual comments were considered carefully and revealed that it is likely that some patients will be considered to be ‘vulnerable’. This means that there is a genuine risk that they are, or will become undernourished if they do not receive these products on prescription.
“The CCG is therefore committed to ensuring these patients are supported. In order to do this, we will carry out a complete ‘Equality Impact Assessment’ and develop guidelines to aid clinical decision making in General Practice to identify these vulnerable patients.”
Parker also noted that the total cost of gluten free products for the NHS can be six to ten times the price of similar product bought on the high street.
A breakdown of the spending shows gluten free prescriptions cost the CCG £92,786 every month.
But the charity Coeliac UK, which submitted evidence to the consultation, has expressed concern over the decision.
They said in a statement “that the measures taken by the CCG to save money will affect people’s ability to stick to the gluten-free diet.”
It continued: “This will in turn increase the likelihood of complications of coeliac disease such as osteoporosis, which will cost the NHS more in the long term.”
The CCG has said an implementation plan with new guidance for GPs will be put in place as soon as possible, with a patient guide to the changes to be released from 1 September.