Shropshire Star

'More consultation needed' over plan to stop gluten-free items on NHS in Shropshire

A Shropshire health campaigner has questioned whether the trust that buys health services for the county has consulted enough with patients with Coeliac disease, as it will stop gluten-free food prescriptions within the coming months.


In a bid to save about £120,000 a year, Shropshire Clinical Commissioning Group is to stop gluten-free products being available on NHS prescriptions in the county.

The CCG is planning to begin an 'engagement process' over the next two months for the move, with a deadline date of June 1 for the food products to no longer be prescribed.

But at this week's meeting of the CCG Gill George, from Shropshire Defend Our NHS, questioned whether feedback from patients and stakeholders had formed any part of the decision.

She said: "Is the board happy your only engagement will be providing information only, are you confident that this meets an engagement process?"

Ms George questioned whether the savings that will be made from stopping gluten-free food prescriptions would be a "false economy".

"This could prove to be a false economy because stopping these prescriptions could actually see a reduced compliance for those with significant long-term conditions, therefore actually proving more costly, has that been considered?" Ms George said.

Sean Mackey, interim head of medicines management, said the £120,000 figure was based on about 800 patients in the county.

He said: "The CCG has said that they believe we should not be recommending gluten-free food products on prescription anymore.

"We do know that this gluten-free lifestyle has been popularised and there is now plenty of choice in the supermarkets.

"We believe the time has come. We don't have diabetics with products on prescription free of charge."

Mr Mackey said a national consultation by the Department of Health is due to be completed later this month, and at present the CCG is having discussions with Coeliac UK, dietician specialists, its patient engagement groups and Healthwatch Shropshire.

He also said CCGs, are considering or have already gone down this route – including Bath and North Somerset CCG, Norfolk CCG, and Chorley and South Ribble CCG.

Evidence submitted to NHS England argues that the prescribing of gluten-free products dates back to the 1960s when there was not the choice there is now in supermarkets and shops.