Sheffield mum hits out at NHS bosses for scrapping gluten-free food prescriptions for coeliac sufferers

Celiac suffer Camilla Sherwin with her smaller 2.80 gluten-free load and her husband's larger regular loaf at 79 pence. Picture: Andrew Roe/The Star
Celiac suffer Camilla Sherwin with her smaller 2.80 gluten-free load and her husband's larger regular loaf at 79 pence. Picture: Andrew Roe/The Star
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A Sheffield mum has hit out at NHS bosses for axing prescriptions for gluten-free food.

Coeliac sufferer Camilla Sherwin, aged 32, said the move will ending up costing the NHS in the city more in the long term.

Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the body which decides where health money is spent on services in the city, said they will save £100,000 a year from scrapping them. They said the decision was 'very difficult' in a time of 'financial challenge'.

The CCG's plans have also been criticised by Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh.

Camilla said her weekly shop is going by £15 to £20 a week.

Coeliac disease is a problem some people have with foods that contain gluten, which is a type of protein. It's found in the grains wheat, barley and rye.

If triggered, coeliac sufferers often get diarrhea,bloating, gas swollen ankles, anemia, fatigue, vitamin K deficiency, and excessive bruising bleeding and scarring in the gut.

Nationally, there is around 1 in 100 people who are gluten intolerant. There could be up to 5,000 coeliacs in Sheffield - many that haven't been diagnosed.

Camilla was diagnosed at the age of 21 and said a lot of people have misconceptions about coeliac suffers and the need for prescriptions for food.

"The CCG started the consultation and then ended it in Sheffield before the national one was even finished," she said.

"We don't know what that might have come up with. I can honestly understand the need for saving money in public institutions but this isn't the right way to do it.

"People who are on lower incomes might struggle to keep their diets to a good level and could end up back at the GP with complications.

"It's a false economy. They said it will stop unnecessary trips to the GP for prescriptions but I just deal with my pharmacist. I've not been to my GP for years about condition.

"It's a really expensive diet and non-coeliacs are choosing a gluten-free diet. It's becoming the 'in' thing now and I think this is keeping prices up despite people forever saying there is more and more choice which there is.

"I went to Morrisons for example and paid nearly £3 for a basic cheese and tomato pizza whereas my husband can pop to Aldi and get literally the same product but one I obviously can't eat which is about 90 pence.

"A gluten-free loaf of bread can costs nearly £3 but you can get a decent loaf which the majority of people can safely eat for about 60 or 70 pence. A food shop for coeliac suffers in Sheffield is going up a lot."

Ms Sherwin said Sheffield could've followed a model from the Vale of York CCG which successfully trialed vouchers for gluten-free food saving money on prescriptions but not cutting off help altogether.

"I live less than a mile away from Rotherham, my parents live in Killamarsh. Both those areas still have prescriptions for this. It's a postcode lottery," she added.

An NHS Sheffield CCG spokesman said: "Asking GPs to suspend prescribing manufactured Gluten Free foods to adults has been a very difficult decision for the CCG to make in the face of significant financial challenge.

“In reaching this decision we recognised that it is important we understand any impact of the change so this will be monitored and reviewed in 12 months’ time.”