National consultation to protect gluten free prescribing in England
In March 2017, the Department of Health launched a consultation on the future of gluten free prescribing in England. There were three options under consideration as part of the consultation:
- No change
- Complete removal of access to prescriptions
- Restriction to the type of product available
The Department of Health and Social Care has now announced the decision to retain access to gluten free breads and flour mixes on prescription in England.
Thank you to everyone who made their views known - the Department told us they had ten times the usual response rate. We also responded, setting out our evidence based argument about the need to support people with coeliac disease.
We believe that the government have made a reasonable decision at a time when the NHS in England is facing significant financial challenges. The work undertaken by the Department of Health and Social Care has recognised the need for patients with coeliac disease to have ongoing support to manage their condition, and they have paid attention to the evidence we have put forward about the cost, availability and nutritional contribution of gluten free staples in managing a gluten free diet.
This decision does not affect gluten free prescribing for patients with coeliac disease in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
What support is available in areas where prescriptions have been withdrawn?
While this is a positive outcome in many ways, we understand that the cost of gluten free food is still an issue for anyone who needs to stick to a gluten free diet. We are looking at ways we can support people and help them make adjustments in regions where CCGs have withdrawn prescriptions.
What happens now?
In November 2018, the Gluten Free Prescribing Regulations became law and in December 2018, the revised Drug Tariff (the list of products which GPs can prescribe from) in England was introduced. This only lists gluten free bread and flour mixes and means other gluten free foods are no longer be available on prescription in England.
While we are pleased that the needs of patients with coeliac disease are being recognised at a national level, it is important to realise that individual clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) can decide their own local prescribing policies to restrict further than the national guidelines. We will identify where access to prescriptions has effectively been removed and will be working hard to challenge those CCGs to review and reverse their actions. We will keep members affected informed of our progress in persuading individual CCGs to reinstate prescriptions.