Blanket ban on gluten-free food on prescription in East and North Hertfordshire could be lifted

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 March 2018

Archant

A blanket ban on gluten-free food on prescription, imposed by the East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group just four months ago in a bid to tackle a funding crisis, may be lifted following a new Government ruling.

Facing a health and care funding gap forecast to reach £550 million by 2021, the East and North Hertfordshire CCG and NHS Herts Valleys CCG announced a raft of cuts to health services in October, including that gluten-free food will not be available on prescription, with the exception of patients with learning disabilities or where there are welfare concerns.

At the time, there was concern the decision was a false economy and will lead to bigger health problems for patients.

The consequences of not maintaining a strict gluten-free diet are serious and complications can include osteoporosis, a rare type of bowel cancer and neurological conditions.

The Department of Health and Social Care has now decided to retain access to gluten-free breads and flour mixes on prescription in England.

A Government report says: “This would deliver savings to the NHS and help mitigate the risk that those on lower incomes would not be able to purchase gluten-free foods from retail outlets where price is often higher and availability more limited.”

Chief executive of Coeliac UK, Sarah Sleet, said: “We are pleased. The vast majority of patients and clinicians agree 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.”

She said the decision to restrict gluten-free items on prescription to just breads and flour mixes was reasonable given the financial challenges faced by the NHS.

She added: “As CCGs are autonomous and do not have to follow national guidance, we will identify where access to prescriptions has been removed and challenge those CCGs to reverse their actions, which are harder to justify in light of this decision by the Government.”

A spokesman for the East and North Herts CCG said: “We will now review the recommendations from the report and consider if our local policy requires amendment. Until that review is complete, the existing policy, which was developed following our own public consultation last summer, remains in place.”

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