Our work on prescriptions

Coeliac UK believes that the prescription of gluten free staple foods is an essential NHS service for people clinically diagnosed with coeliac disease. Unfortunately, not every area in the UK supports the prescribing of gluten free staples. 

For this reason, we work with policy makers  across the country to make the case to support more people to access the gluten free food that they need. 

Campaign to make gluten free food more affordable and accessible

We are on a mission to make gluten free food more affordable and more accessible and last year we launched a campaign aiming to shine a light on the additional challenges faced by the coeliac community to avoid a cost of living crisis becoming a future health crisis.

In March 2023 we launched our report, ‘The Gluten Free Diet: What does it cost and why does it matter?, and called on policy makers and the food industry to do more to make gluten free more affordable.

To date thousands of people have pledged their support for our campaign, written to local commissioners and MPs, shared their story online and helped highlight that the cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on people with coeliac disease. Our report was cited in parliament and the issue has been repeatedly covered in national and local media.

We believe gluten free prescriptions play an important role in supporting people to access the gluten free food that they need.  We expect more ICBs in England will be looking at this issue throughout the year. With this in mind, we are taking the campaign to the next level and  calling on the UK Government to ensure all ICBs protect access to gluten free staple products for the most vulnerable across England. To show your support and for all the latest on the campaign, check out the campaign page here.

And in the meantime, we continue to work with the food industry to ensure that everyone with coeliac disease can access the staple gluten free food they need at an affordable price. We have met with manufacturers and major retailers in recent months and look forward to sharing more about our plans later this year. Keep an eye out too for the launch of our next report in the summer 2024.

With your support, we can really make a difference and ensure no member of our community is left behind because of the cost and availability of gluten free food.

Fighting cuts to provision

In recent years gluten free prescribing has been limited or withdrawn by local commissioners in much of England. We believe gluten free prescriptions play an important role in supporting people overcome the challenges of increased cost and limited access and availability of gluten free staple foods.

We made this case strongly to the Department of Health and Social Care as part of their review of gluten free prescribing in 2017 and as a result they opted to maintain access to gluten free bread and flour mixes on prescription. Unfortunately they left it to the discretion of local commisioners to set more restrictive policies if they chose to and as result we have seen the withdrawal of gluten free prescriptions across much of England. We continue to oppose such restrictions wherever they are proposed.

We have been delighted to see gluten free prescriptions re-instated in Sheffield, West Kent, Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Richmond, meaning for the first time in years people with coeliac disease in these areas can access much needed support. However, it has not all been good news and we continue to fight hard against the recent decisions to withdraw gluten free prescriptions for the coeliac community in Leeds, Calderdale and across Hampshire.

To find out more about prescribing in your area, visit our prescriptions page.

Supporting a new approach to prescribing

We’ve been working with commissioners in West Wales to support their development of a new model of support for people with coeliac disease. Following a successful trial, it is now set to become an exciting option for all those with coeliac disease in Wales.

Rather than providing gluten free food on a prescription, a pre-paid subsidy card is issued to everyone with coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis. This subsidy card is pre-loaded with credit equivalent to the difference in the costs of gluten free food compared to similar gluten containing food. The card can be used at any outlet that sells gluten free food with a card reader system e.g. supermarkets, local shops, community pharmacies, or online.

The card can only be used to purchase gluten free food but offers flexibility for the user, whilst saving GP time. The scheme is currently available to all Hywel Dda residents alongside traditional prescribing and discussions are ongoing to roll out the scheme across Wales. For more information, check out the scheme web page.