Gluten-free foods will no longer be available on prescription in Fylde and Wyre.
NHS Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group has approved a recommendation from its medicines management committee to cease funding gluten-free foods which were previously available on prescription for people diagnosed with coeliac disease.
The decision comes as the CCG, which plans and buys NHS health services for patients in Fylde and Wyre, is carrying out an assessment of all services to ensure they fit within its commissioning principles.
Historically, gluten-free foods were not readily available from supermarkets, so access via prescriptions on the NHS was important. However today products are easily obtained, product ranges have expanded and prices are more competitive.
Often costs to the NHS are significantly higher than the equivalent costs to purchase products directly from supermarkets.
Last year, the CCG spent £85,000 on gluten-free products with further expense to NHS England on dispensing fees. On average, about 200 prescriptions of gluten-free bread are written a month.
Dr Tony Naughton, clinical chief officer at Fylde and Wyre CCG, said: “As a CCG, our commissioning decisions and policies are based on five key principles. This means that we will only commission treatments or services which are appropriate, effective, cost-effective, ethical and affordable.
“In order to meet increasing demands for costs of healthcare we are reviewing what we currently commission in accordance with these principles.”
As part of the decision-making process, CCG chiefs launched an engagement exercise to gather public perceptions. A survey was published and shared with the local population.
Dr Naughton added: “We received 241 responses to our survey, the majority of which were coeliac patients or carers for people with coeliac disease.
“The two main concerns raised were people having to buy their own food on low incomes and not all shops stocking gluten-free foods or supply issues.
“While we understand this will be an adjustment for those patients who receive gluten-free foods on prescription, shop-bought items are still affordable and there is also of course the option to buy naturally gluten-free products.
“We will now work closely with patients and support groups to identify what information and support patients need to enable them to identify appropriate dietary advice and sources of appropriate gluten free foods.”
The CCG is in the process of writing to all patients affected by the decision. Prescriptions of gluten-free foods will stop on November 1.
Coeliac disease is a digestive autoimmune condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten. Symptoms can include diarrhoea, bloating, abdominal pain, tiredness and vomiting.