Clinicians should stop prescribing foods for patients who are allergic to gluten because of the growing financial pressures on local health bodies, experts have recommended.
At present, prescribers can issue scripts for a number of foods, including specially manufactured breads, rolls, pasta, flour and bread mixes, pizza bases, crackers and oats, to patients who suffer from coeliac disease.
But the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin has said that the NHS should stop writing out the prescriptions and have urged health officials to find a better way to support patients.
Prescriptions for gluten-free staple items were first introduced in the 1960s when there was limited access to these foods outside of the NHS.
But gluten-free products are becoming increasingly available in shops, the editors of the DTB suggested this week. And there are growing financial pressures on local health bodies, they said.
The NHS spent £27m on gluten-free prescriptions in 2011. The authors added that prescribing foods for patients is a “bureaucratic” process.
They suggested that patients should be given food vouchers to obtain gluten-free foods or people with coeliac disease should be given personalised budgets to buy staple items.
“With growing pressure on primary care budgets, and increasing awareness and availability of gluten-free food in shops and supermarkets, it is right to question whether the current arrangements for supplying such products is appropriate,” they write.
“We would urge commissioners to consider redesigning services to ensure that there is ongoing support for people with coeliac disease and to remove the bureaucratic process of prescribing food from primary care.”