The Isle of Wight Clinical Commissioning Group (IWCCG) has approved a proposal to remove gluten-free food prescriptions through the NHS on the Island from April 2017.
The decision has been made following an extensive consultation process with local people, including the coeliac community. Members of the IWCCG’s Governing Body listened carefully to their concerns regarding gluten-free foods.
Acknowledging that the decision was a difficult one to make, Dr John Rivers said:
“This decision is made as part of a £12m savings plan, having considered a range of both clinical and social factors. In the end the Clinical Executive of the CCG felt that given the scale of the savings that need to be made, the CCG could not afford to continue commissioning this service and so recommended that prescriptions for gluten-free foods should stop.”
The Governing Body papers noted that while gluten-free foods are more expensive that their gluten containing comparators in supermarkets, the cost to the NHS was excessive. It was also recognised that it is possible to eat a naturally gluten-free diet and remain free from symptoms without resorting to substitute products.
While members of the Governing Body accepted this argument, they also agreed that arrangements for people with exceptional medical circumstances needed to be put into place, alongside a transition programme to support people who currently receive prescribed food to have a healthy diet without prescriptions.
The Governing Body were also reassured that a new support group for people with coeliac disease has been started with the backing of Community Action IW. The first meeting of the group will be at the Riverside Centre on 17th January between 17:00-19:00.
Commenting on the decision, CCG Chief Officer Helen Shields said:
“We are making this difficult decision but feel we have little choice given our financial position. We know this will not be the only difficult decision that the CCG will have to make. We are working closely with partners and patients to make sure that we make these decisions in a clear and transparent way with a good understanding of the consequences of those decisions and mitigating actions that can be put in place.”
The CCG will be writing to all supermarkets on the Island to inform them of the decision made encouraging them to improve the range of products that they make available and also provide guidance to people with coeliac disease on products that are naturally gluten-free.