We want to help busy local GPs by freeing up more of their time to see patients and to ensure there are sufficient funds for them to prescribe medications that are not generally available over the counter. With limited NHS budgets and the growing cost of medicines, this is becoming increasingly difficult to do.
From 1 July 2017, new local guidance came into effect regarding NHS prescribing of gluten free foods. The new guidance recommends that patients less than 18 years of age should be able to receive a limited range of gluten free bread, flour, multipurpose flour mixes and pasta on NHS prescription. Patients aged 18 years and over should no longer receive gluten free products on prescription.
This decision follows a local clinical review of NHS prescribing of gluten free foods in the North, East and West Devon area. It is aimed at encouraging people to buy gluten free items from shops and online, rather than ask their GP to prescribe them.
It was supported by engagement with local GPs, hospital consultants, patients and other stakeholders and organisations. Engagement resulted in a spectrum of views:
- some people and organisations did not want options to be limited - 70% of 572 respondents to the public survey said removing all gluten free items from prescription would have a significant impact on their health and wellbeing.
- some questioned whether the NHS should fund items which were not medicinal and arguably not essential – less than 1% of the North, East and West Devon population has the gluten intolerance condition known as Coeliac Disease. In 2015-16 we spent £560,000 on NHS prescribed gluten free foods.
- some fully supported the approach and felt it was reasonable - 93% of the 175 local GPs that completed a survey felt the gluten free prescribing policy should be reviewed and gluten free foods on NHS prescription should not be so freely available.
In response to feedback, we chose a recommendation that only partially limits gluten free foods on NHS prescription and we have advised GPs accordingly.
A link to the Healthwatch Devon patient and public report showing survey results related to gluten free prescribing is below, along with further information and support.