Changes to Gluten Free prescriptions

Changes to the kinds of gluten free foods provided to patients on prescription in Buckinghamshire have come into effect from December 2018.

Gluten free foods are prescribed where patients have a diagnosed condition such as coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis.

In Buckinghamshire, GPs can prescribe eight units of food per person, per month, which will continue. However, from December there will be a change to the range of food products available on prescription.

These will now include only two food groups:

  • Bread, rolls and baguettes – one unit will equate to 400g
  • Mixes – one unit will equate to 250g (so a 500g pack will be two units)

This means people may get up to eight 400g loaves on prescription, or four 500g mixes. Similarly, they could have a combination of the two, as long as this does not exceed eight units.

Pasta and flour will no longer be available on prescription. These join other food items, including biscuits, crackers, crispbread, pizza bases and cereals, which stopped being prescribed in 2016.

This decision follows a public consultation on the availability of gluten free foods on prescription, carried out by the Department of Health and Social Care in 2018. The outcome was that only a limited range of bread and mix products should remain available on prescription. Among the reasons for this is that these items cost more for the NHS to prescribe than if bought in shops. The consultation details can be viewed here.

Dr Shona Lockie, GP and Clinical Director to the Medicines Management Team for NHS Buckinghamshire CCG, said: “We are very keen to support members or our population who live with conditions such as coeliac disease, but we also have to be mindful of how we spend the limited resources we have. The cost of gluten free products to the NHS is much higher than those bought in a supermarket. Also, people living with other conditions affected by the food they eat do not typically get specialist food on prescription.

“This is a good compromise – we can still help patients maintain a healthy diet by prescribing them with a quantity of basic foods. They can then either use naturally gluten free alternatives, such a potatoes, rice or rice noodles, or easily purchase other gluten free products which are readily available at supermarkets.”

For a list of frequently asked questions on gluten free prescribing, please click here.