Plans to restrict gluten-free food on prescription in Leeds sparks row

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Health bosses in Leeds are considering whether to cut prescriptions for gluten-free foods and over-the-counter medicines in a bid to save £1.6m.

The city’s three Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are running a consultation over changes to prescriptions as they face “tough challenges” amid the need for cost-cutting.

Proposals include not routinely funding various medications which are available over-the-counter, which could save £130,000 a year.

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They also propose to generally commission the prescribing of non-branded products unless there is a medical reason not to, which could save £1m a year.

In addition, they are looking at not routinely funding gluten-free foods for people with coeliac disease through prescriptions, which could save £450,000 a year.

However national charity Coeliac UK has hit out at these proposals.

Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK said: “We are particularly concerned that if approved by the CCGs in Leeds, this policy would result in health inequality meaning a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable.

“The provision of gluten free staple food on prescription is a vital element of the support offered to all patients by the NHS and it is essential to prevent long term damage to health.”

Dr Gaye Sheerman-Chase, medicines optimisation lead for NHS Leeds West CCG, said: “We are facing some tough challenges in the months ahead in a climate where we need to make financial savings.

“While the cost of gluten-free products is free for the patient if they are exempt from prescription charges, this still has to be paid for by the taxpayer and the cost to the NHS of a loaf of bread on prescription is much higher than bought over the counter.”

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