Have your say on a new approach to gluten-free prescribing

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is reviewing its policy on prescribing gluten-free foods in line with national guidance and is encouraging Wiltshire patients, the public and clinicians to have their say on two proposed options.

The review follows a national public consultation in 2017 by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on the ‘Availability of gluten-free foods on NHS Prescription’ and the resulting guidance announced in February 2018 to restrict gluten-free foods to bread and mixes only – although this does not affect a CCG’s statutory authority to determine its approach at a local level.

Gluten-free prescribing began in the 1960s when no gluten-free foods or products were readily available. Today gluten-free foods are found in most supermarkets, shops and many cafes – including in Wiltshire – and competition has driven pricing down meaning they are affordable dietary alternatives.

Wiltshire CCG has a duty to ensure that the funds it has available for prescribing are spent in a way that benefits most patients. Between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 it spent £241,487 on products such as gluten-free bread, pasta and pizza bases, items which are now readily available and competitively priced. Wiltshire is also the highest prescribing CCG in England of Juvela gluten-free bread and bread mix.

Dr Richard Sandford-Hill, Chair of Wiltshire CCG explains,
“The two options proposed are to stop prescribing all gluten-free foods in primary care, or to restrict prescribing to bread and mixes only for those patients with a diagnosis of coeliac disease and/or dermatitis herpetiformis up to the age of 18 years.

“While these proposals will reduce the amount of staple gluten-free foods available on prescription in Wiltshire, it will not affect the vital help and support available to patients diagnosed with coeliac disease and/or dermatitis herpetiformis via their GP or dietician.

“There is also no strong clinical evidence that patients who receive gluten-free food on prescription are more likely to comply with a gluten-free diet, or have better health outcomes than those who do not.”

Patients, the public and clinicians in Wiltshire are encouraged to have their say on the proposed options via a short survey available at www.wiltshireccg.nhs.uk. The survey is open until 22 July 2018.

Findings from the survey will inform the future prescribing of gluten-free foods in Wiltshire.