GF Prescriptions

Hi and Merry Christmas everyone!

I collected my prescription GF flour today and the pharmacist asked could they do a review of my meds. The discussion got around to the cost to the NHS of servicing coeliacs' prescription needs. I don't know if anyone shares my slightly guilty feeling when collecting my flour, as I know its horrendous cost.

My post's question is to ask if anyone has an update on whether the alternative idea of issuing of 'coeliac vouchers' redeemable at supermarket's Free From ranges is still being considered and if so what progress?

My personal view is a voucher method would be easy to implement/administer and save goodness knows how much scarce NHS resources.

25 Replies

  • Hi SDM

    Having looked around the net, it seems that there has been a voucher pilot scheme in Yorkshire started at the beginning of the year. Can't see any results or follow on. With all the recent cuts to prescriptions for coeliacs perhaps the idea has been cancelled?

    Merry Christmas to you too.

  • Thanks Penel, I'll try and follow up Yorkshire trial.

    It would be a shame if the idea died a death. However typical of the badly run NHS who ignore a cost effect solution to providing GF food, particularly to those who can't or would choose not to buy expensive free from stuff.

  • Hi, supplying vouchers is all well and good but only if you live in an area where there is a good supply and plenty of choice available. Where I live in rural North Yorkshire there is very limited choice available in shops/supermarkets but a much wider choice is available through prescription and better quality.

  • Hi SaabDriver,

    You make a valid point, however with increasing pressures on NHS budgets the likelihood of prescription GF food continuing, is in my opinion, slim. Better to have a more cost effective system thereby reducing the chances of it being dropped, than have the whole lot taken away from us.

  • Hi babe am like you I dont get much on my gf prescription just basic staple food bread pasta & flour but I have to have a review becouse they dont want to giv it out to me any more its a disgrace thinking its something we can do with out & its costly to buy out as for vouchers if we get them next year babe there only for staple food not what we would like to get on them so again babe thank the nhs for caring

  • Having worked in a GP surgery and been responsible for issuing repeat prescriptions I am well aware of the cost of GF foods to the NHS, but believe me for every GF px issued there are many, many more expensive items issued to patients who over order and stockpile. Here in Northants I am now limited to 12 units per calendar month (1 unit = 1 loaf or pack of pasta and 2 units per box of flour), so no opportunity to stockpile here! Despite the ready availability of GF products in our local supermarkets apart from the extra cost to me as a pensioner the quality and taste of px items ie flour and bread is far superior to the supermarket brands. It seems to me that coelicas are an easy target when there is so much more waste elsewhere in prescribing.

  • Hi Adnil,

    I couldn't agree with you more when it comes to better cost control of not just prescriptions, but within the whole of the NHS. I think part of the problem is that GF prescription food is often perceived as "food" and not a "medicine". It hasn't helped that Free From aisles are becoming more popular as a main stream alternative to 'normal' food.

    Have you tried what I think is the best performing GF non prescription flour: Dove GF. £1.70 for a kg bag. Quite a difference from the £8 odd for prescription flours, plus (I believe) an horrendous delivery charge which around doubles the price.

  • Hi all, I've taken the controversial view that GF foods are a waste of money for the NHS and haven't used a subscription for about 6 years. The example you describe about the flour that could cost £16 highlights my reasoning for this. I remember 10 years ago where GF foods were simply unavailable bar prescription, that just isn't the case these days. I can get GF food from most supermarkets, and although more expensive than normal foods is relatively cheap compared to the cost to the NHS pays.

    It's a personal choice, I have no argument with those who use their prescription as they are entitled, I just think that sometimes the entitled argument just isn't good enough and I would ask people to think twice before using their prescriptions.

  • Hi Rodeojoe,

    Whilst I applaud your action I don't agree that GF food is a waste for the NHS. For those of us that can afford not to use the prescription service for our Gf food we have to decide one way or another. However there are, I suspect, significant numbers that would find the premium priced Free From products a strain on their budgets and take decisions that reflect their finances rather than their health. As a result they could add to the strain on NHS resources.

  • Well just to put things into perspective, I use one loaf of GF bread a week max. That's a cost of about £3 compared to a normal £1 loaf, so that's cost me an extra £2 / week maximum.

  • I can see why not using the prescription route is not too much of a financial burden for you.

    I've just read TT's comment below and think this illustrates how the current post code lottery (of who gets what) can negatively impact lives.

    Whilst I acknowledge your argument I still feel a voucher system would be fairer, as it would deliver the same benefit to all, rather than the current GP led process. It also may stop the NHS withdrawing completely from its support for GF food.

  • I agree totally. I think we need something in place for people on low incomes and we need a solution for people who live in isolated areas; I just don't think that universal prescriptions is the right response.

    The other issue is the misuse of the system - and I've heard of various examples where people take advantage. That also needs sorting out.

    We need to think imaginatively. If the supermarkets can deliver, is there a way of piggy-backing on that for some people ?

  • I need the less than 5ppm flour and bread (without dairy and egg too). This means, if relying on supermarkets, I typically visit 5 or 6 over a wide area that I know stock the bread in order to get some as the shop supplies run out all the time. I need to find health food shops for the flour and typically travel to buy the flour as stocks are unpredictable. I get very ill indeed if I don't get the right brands. This means I am really grateful for my (minimum amount) prescription as even with that and a car to travel I still sometimes can't get bread when supplies are low. When I travel to different parts of the UK and abroad there are similar problems. Most of the supermarket gluten free food isn't fit for purpose ( for me) as I react to small levels of gluten in the products. It feels as there is so little support for coeliac and ncgs in the nhs at any level. Better management of supplies at every level would help. Rip off costs should be targeted. I also think coeliac are an easy target as most people including many medical staff think it is purely a matter of bread substitution.

    Ok I have had my rant. Good luck everyone with getting supplies.

  • Wow in Canada we have no such thing as prescription foods. Many of our supermarkets have gluten free aisles and also gf fresh bread and muffin section. We have two gluten free bakeries in London Ontario. Heros burgers currently arrived from the US and it serves GF burgers and fries. Other than this most restaurants have GF options on their menu. We do not have any dedicated GF restaurants as yet however I see it happening in the near future as Toronto Ontario has several!

  • Good one Toronto! I wish the UK supermarkets were so switched on. They are more interested in paying Celebrities to star in their naff TV adverts.

  • It is a good idea, but Juvela only do prescription orders. I have tried all of the other brands and I get better results with Juvela.

  • Hi,

    I've not heard anything about the voucher scheme and I live in Yorkshire. My 4 year old grandson has a wheat allergy and my daughter cannot get the suitable products on prescription. She can only get pasta and her GP refuses to give her anything else. Part of the problem is that my grandson also has a dairy allergy and some of the products on prescription contain milk/dairy products. Plus, the GP won't prescripe other products due to the cost. Whereas. a child in my grandson's village/nursery school has a gluten allergy and he gets loads of stuff on prescription. He gets breads, breakfast cereal, pastas and other products. It's very unfair because my daughter is a single mum that works part-time and she doesn't get any maintenance from her ex for their son and struggles to make ends meet but, my grandson's nursery friend's both parents work and appear to be rather affluent and possibly can afford to buy over the counter from the supermarket. There's so many disparagies with the system, it's just not fair!!!

    Don't feel guilty and note that the pharmacist is paid a handsome fee to review your meds, and it is likely this fee that has motivated the review.

    Have a good weekend and take care.

    TT x

  • Voucher scheme seems to have been around York. Postcode lottery again.

  • Thanks Penel,

    What a mess!! York are piloting their voucher scheme so who knows it may spread. It's got me thinking that it may be worth me approaching my own GP practice with the idea. However drawing attention may prompt them to just reduce or even stop GF food for us!!!

    Maybe a better option is to see if Coeliac UK are doing anything on this. I'll do some digging next week and let you know.


  • The problem I see TT has is that the grandson has a wheat allergy as opposed to coeliac disease. Only coeliacs get food on prescription, lactose intolerance and wheat allergies are not covered.

    The NHS does not operate on means testing. When somebody has an illness that entitles them to any kind of prescription their financial status is not considered, only if they must pay for their prescription or not. And I believe all under 18s get free prescriptions.

    There are some quirky rules applying to prescriptions, for example if you have a thyroid problem you will then be entitled to any prescription free of charge. This is not dependent on whether the prescription is for a thyroid issue or not, or your financial status.

    But I think its important to distinguish between the NHS and the benefits system, these are two entirely different institutions .

  • Luckily York is nore affluent that Wakefield. Plus, the article you noted stated that the CCG prescribing was "guidelines" hence, not in statute and open to each CCG prescribing what they want to cut costs.

  • "Don't feel guilty and note that the pharmacist is paid a handsome fee to review your meds, and it is likely this fee that has motivated the review."

    It's that sort of cheap nastiness from some posters that loses support.

  • Hi Claudio,

    Thanks for your comments. I had no idea there was a pay back for my review. Next time i'm in there I will make my feelings known as the review was to say the least just recording a few decisions i had made re medicines. No added value whatsoever!!


  • There are some reviews that may attract a payment, though many will be done outside of that (and so not get payment). You may be a very sensible patient - I hope you are - and so there may be no issues. Among the issues I've known picked up in reviews (and these were in the days when they didn't attract a payment) was a couple who were taking each other's medicines (potentially very serious) and somebody who was supplementing their prescriptions with over the counter remedies so that they were getting several times what they needed. In the last case, if you or I took those amounts straight off, it would probably kills us - but as they had gradually increased dosage, they were (sort of) OK.

    Those are the reasons, for me, medicine reviews can be important and why they can be a really good use of NHS funding. They won't always pick anything up - but when they do it can be really important.

  • I never meant my post to be cheap and nasty, it's the truth. Pharmacists are paid to review your meds so that you don't have to go to your GP and clog up the appointment system. This leaves appointment slots available at the GP surgeries for those that are ill but, it is motivator for pharmacies to do more for their local communities too!

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