Health chiefs to discuss plans to scrap routine gluten-free food prescriptions for coeliac patients

PUBLISHED: 10:26 24 July 2017 | UPDATED: 10:38 24 July 2017

Doctor writing prescription

Doctor writing prescription

© Getty Images

West Kent CCG admits it needs to make cuts with a limited budget and increased demand for services

Plans to stop providing coeliac patients with routine prescriptions for gluten-free products will be discussed at a crunch health meeting this week.

The NHS has offered the service to patients diagnosed with the illness for the past 30 years, with the West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) spending more than £100,000 a year on the prescriptions.

The service first began when gluten-free foods were not as readily available as they are today, and the CCG is looking across the board to make cuts with a limited budget and increasing demand for services.

Proposals to stop providing gluten-free products on prescription for people diagnosed with coeliac disease and some other gluten-sensitive illnesses were put to the public earlier this year.

Between June 2015 and May 2016, 9,800 items of gluten-free products were prescribed by the 61 GP practices in west Kent.

There are several conditions which require specialist diets as part of the treatment, such as lactose intolerance or nut allergies, however coeliac disease and gluten-sensitive illnesses are the only ones to receive specialist diet foods on prescription.

The Department of Health ran a consultation on the availability of gluten-free foods on prescription which had some 7,941 responses after it closed on June 22.

It says it is currently considering them all and will announce a response in due course.

Dr Bob Bowes, chair of NHS West Kent CCG, said: “The CCG faces substantial budgetary challenges.

“In reviewing our prescribing budget to ensure we are spending it in the most effective and equitable way, we need to decide whether the money spent on gluten-free prescriptions can be spent on other services without having a significant impact on the health of those affected.

“We had intended to wait for the Department of Health decision but, as a date has not yet been set for this, we are of the opinion that we must have this discussion now.

“We will, of course, take the findings of the national consultation into account, when they become available.”

The meeting will take place at 1.30pm on Tuesday at the Village Hotel in Maidstone.

An update on the results of the Edenbridge consultation will also be given and the Local Care Plan will be presented for approval.

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