Gluten-free prescribing restricted to bread and mixes

GPs in England are no longer able to prescribe gluten-free products other than bread and mixes on the NHS, as of 4th December 2018.

Patients in England can still receive gluten-free bread and mixes on NHS prescription, but they are no longer eligible for other products such as cakes and biscuits. | iStock.com/ LauriPatterson
Patients in England can still receive gluten-free bread and mixes on NHS prescription, but they are no longer eligible for other products such as cakes and biscuits. | iStock.com/ LauriPatterson

NHS England has published guidance restricting gluten-free prescribing in England to bread and mixes only, following a public consultation launched last year. Other gluten-free foods including biscuits, cakes, cereals, cooking aids, grains/flours and pasta can no longer be supplied on the NHS in England.

Listings for gluten-free products in MIMS have been updated to reflect the new restrictions, which do not apply to prescribing in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The aim of the restriction is to cut NHS costs. It is estimated that the changes could reduce the primary care prescription bill by up to £22.4 million each year.

The NHS began funding gluten-free foods for patients diagnosed with gluten sensitivity enteropathies including coeliac disease in the late 1960s, when the availability of such foods was limited. NHS England notes in the new guidance that a wide variety of gluten-free products is now readily available to purchase without a prescription from supermarkets and other food outlets.

Individual CCGs are allowed to restrict their own gluten-free prescribing policies even further or end such prescribing completely if they believe their decision is 'appropriate for their population, whilst taking account of their legal duties to advance equality'.

A map providing information on gluten-free prescribing policy for CCGs across England is available on the Coeliac UK website.

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