Charity hits out at Sheffield NHS bosses on plans to axe gluten-free food prescriptions
Plans to stop giving out gluten-free food to coaliac sufferers in Sheffield have been criticised by a charity.
NHS Sheffield Clinical Commissioning Group - the body who decides where money should be spent in the city - said it wasn't the 'best use of NHS resources'.
Bosses say the changes could save the NHS in the city around £100,000 every year.
But charity Coaliac UK said the plans could cost Sheffield CCG 'more in the long run' and criticised bosses for spending money on a consultation.
Coeliac disease is a serious illness where the body’s immune system reacts to gluten found in food, making the body attack itself.
Services are under increasing cost restraints and bosses say there is a 'limited budget with an increasing demand for services'.
The plans include GPs being asked to suspend prescribing gluten-free foods to adults aged over 18 with coeliac disease but they would still be able to prescribe where they feel there is a genuine risk to someone's nutritional status.
The changes to not apply to people under the age of 18.
People with a clinical diagnosis of coeliac disease, can currently be prescribed gluten free foods. This started in the 1960s, when the availability of manufactured gluten-free foods was limited.
Sarah Sleet, dhief executive of Coeliac UK said: “The national consultation has now ended but the announcement on the result has not yet been made. Surely the decision by Sheffield CCG to consult on gluten free prescribing locally, is not a good use of public money when this is currently under review at a national level - with their results due to be published shortly.
“However, we are pleased the Sheffield CCG has, to some extent, taken our concerns into account about impact on the most vulnerable by planning to continue gluten free prescriptions for those aged 18 years and under and enabling GPs to still prescribe if they feel there is a genuine risk to an individual.
“But at the end of the day, any reduction in the gluten free prescription services for people with coeliac disease is being based on budgets rather than patient need or clinical evidence, and this could create harmful long term consequences to all patients with coeliac disease."
Brian Hughes, director of commissioning and performance at NHS Sheffield CCG said: “We have looked at all the evidence available and have concluded that prescribing of gluten-free products to adults is not the best use of NHS resources.
“The cost of providing these manufactured foods through the NHS is significantly more than the retail purchase price if people buy them directly.
“These are now widely available in supermarkets across Sheffield and prices have fallen to make them more comparable to products containing gluten.
“In addition, lots of foods are naturally gluten free such as fresh fruit and vegetables, including potatoes, meat, chicken, fish, cheese, eggs, rice and lentils.
“GPs prescribe according to their clinical judgement so the proposed changes are guidelines only. It would not apply if a GP feels there is a genuine risk to the nutritional status of a vulnerable individual.”
The consultation runs until Friday October 20 and people can access the document here under the involve me section and have their say about the proposed changes.