Call to end prescriptions for gluten-free foods

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DOCTORS should no longer be responsible for prescribing gluten-free foods to patients with a wheat allergy, experts have said.

People with coeliac disease – an intolerance of wheat gluten – can currently be given prescriptions by the NHS for gluten-free products such as bread, flour and biscuits.

But an editorial in the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) said the process was “outmoded and costly”, adding a layer of unnecessary red tape to the NHS and taking up healthcare professionals’ time.

Instead, it said a different system of getting products to patients who need them should be considered, such as a voucher system, which meant doctors did not have to become involved. NHS prescriptions for gluten-free foods were introduced in the late 1960s when access to these products was much more limited than now.

The DTB said these foods were now readily available from supermarkets and other outlets, yet many people with coeliac disease were still requesting prescriptions to take to a chemist, costing the NHS millions of pounds a year.

However, the editorial said these foods could be up to 500 per cent more expensive than their gluten-containing equivalents, so some level of support should still be in place, though not through prescriptions.

The editorial also pointed out that in some areas the NHS no longer recommended the provision of cakes and biscuits in their gluten-free forms “in the interests of promoting healthy eating”.