Educating healthcare professionals about coeliac disease

It’s our mission to make life happier and healthier for everyone who needs to live without gluten. And advocating for earlier diagnosis is key to achieving that. As a charity with no government funding, we’re always working to find new ways of raising awareness among healthcare professionals.  

Working with GPs

Attending GP events and conferences has been a key way to communicate with GPs and gain their feedback on how we can help them to help you. We know GPs are very busy, and so we have created resources which are quick and easy for them to find and use, such as:

In 2021, GP and member of Coeliac UK’s Health Advisory Council, Dr Geraint Preest, spoke at our virtual Research Conference to provide a summary of diagnosis and management aimed at GPs. This talk is available on our website for GPs to access at a time that suits them.

How Coeliac UK experts shape official guidance 

Healthcare professional education

The revised undergraduate nutrition medical curriculum published in October 2021 finally included coeliac disease. During the consultation, we stressed the importance of coeliac disease education to identify and diagnose people with the condition.

We are also in discussions with Health Education England about providing trainee GPs with education on coeliac disease.

Official diagnosis guidelines

National guidelines are essential to improve the care and diagnosis of coeliac disease. Coeliac UK was a member of the guideline development group for both NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Guidance) guidelines, the first published in 2009 and the current guideline published in 2015. NICE guidelines provide evidence based indicators for testing for coeliac disease and are used by GPs and other healthcare professionals.  We also played a key role in the development of a NICE Quality Standard for diagnosis and management of coeliac disease.

What about other healthcare professionals?

Not everyone with symptoms of coeliac disease will approach their GP, so it’s important to engage with other healthcare professionals to support timely diagnosis.

Primary Care

Other health professionals are taking more of a lead role within general practice. For example, First Contact Dietitians are able to assess and manage patients with gut symptoms, including irritable bowel syndrome and ensure that testing for coeliac disease has been carried out.


Some people access over the counter treatments for their symptoms via community pharmacies. We support pharmacists in recognising coeliac disease through working with Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) and providing educational online content for pharmacists.

We piloted a study to see how pharmacists could help identify people with coeliac disease. During the project, people accessing prescription and over the counter medications for irritable bowel syndrome and anaemias were offered testing. 9.4% of patients tested had positive results, and they were referred back to their healthcare team for investigations for coeliac disease.  

Results of this study have been shared with national bodies including the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) who produce guidance for the NHS.

Funding research to improve diagnosis

A key area for our research has been funding projects looking at innovation in diagnosis of coeliac disease. One current project aims to identify people with coeliac disease, even if gluten has already been removed from their diet. The second project aims to automate the investigation of biopsy samples used as part of the diagnosis process for those individuals who don’t meet the criteria for a no-biopsy diagnosis. Both of these projects aim to streamline the diagnosis process for individuals with coeliac disease.

Change is happening

Research to benchmark progress in diagnosis rates shows that change is happening! There was a fourfold increase in the date of diagnosis between 1999 – 2011. Of the 1 in 100 people with coeliac disease, 24% were diagnosed in 2011 and this rose to 36% by 2020.

We’ll continue our work with GPs and other healthcare professionals until no life is limited by gluten. For regular updates, make sure you’re following us on social media and signed up to our monthly email newsletter.