The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has welcomed the Department of Health and Social Care's (DHSC) decision to keep certain gluten-free (GF) foods on prescription.

The DHSC decided to retain GF breads and flour mixes, which are often prescribed for patients suffering from coeliac disease, following a public consultation on prescribing legislation for these foods.

'Good news'

RPS spokesperson told The Pharmacist that the DHSC's decision is 'good news’. 

They said: ‘Evidence shows that replacement of core staples, such as breads and flours by GF equivalents, enables better adherence to a GF diet.

‘This in turn avoids ill health and expensive treatment of complications.

‘Access to GF core staple products on prescription helps to mitigate against the risk of health inequalities too.’

By dispensing NHS prescriptions for GF food, community pharmacy provides ‘extra clinical support to GPs and minimise their workload’, said the charity Coeliac UK.

The pharmaceutical body and the DHSC argue that restricting ‘GF prescriptions to certain foods would deliver savings to the NHS whilst ensuring patient health isn’t impacted’.

‘Missed opportunity’

However, NHS Clinical Commissioners (NHSCC) chief executive Julie Wood said that the move 'is a missed opportunity' because the £22m currently spent on GF products could be spent on frontline NHS services'.

She continued: ‘While our members would have preferred the DHSC to have gone further and removed the availability of all gluten free products on prescription, we welcome the decision that does limit a significant proportion of the current spend.

‘On a daily basis, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are forced to make difficult decisions that balance the needs of the individual against those of their entire local population.

‘As a result, there are some tough choices that have to be made and many of our members have already taken the decision to go further than the DHSC’s decision.

‘If the NHS is to deliver what is expected of it within its current financial allocation, then we must all be bolder in making decisions that mean money currently being spent on foodstuffs is spent on other priority areas such as mental health and primary care, where local clinicians, patients and members of the public feel it is appropriate and safe to do.’