Charity Warns of Potential Gluten-Free Diet Dangers

A major charity representing individuals with restricted diets has criticised health professions for putting budgets before the needs of patients.

Cash-strapped NHS Kernow, the GP-led Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) , has announced that it may cease prescribing gluten-free food for those who require such specialist diets.

Gluten-free food will no longer be offered in the CCG for sufferers of coeliac disease, and the associated condition dermatitis herpetiformis, should the plans come to fruition.

NHS Kernow has a projected deficit of £38.8 million and has been tasked with achieving savings of nearly £41.5 million.

The NHS trust hopes to reduce its £350,000 annual budget associated with providing gluten-free food for sufferers of the autoimmune disorder.

Commenting on the issue, NHS Kernow chairman Dr Iain Chorlton indicated that a cost-benefit analysis had already been conducted into this issue.

“We continuously review services to ensure they provide value for money, based on the needs of the population and the money we have available to spend.”

Dr Chorlton also opined that specialist foods are now more readily available and affordable, and that this would ultimately be factored into the decision of the NHS trust.

“It is now easier and more affordable to buy gluten-free foods in supermarkets and online. The NHS does not provide food on prescription for most other groups of people whose conditions are associated with, or affected by, the type of food they eat but which can be managed by eating a diet naturally free from certain ingredients.”

But sufferers from the disease that is trigged by gluten asserted that the gluten-free diet which theyy consume is not an optional lifestyle choice, and instead essential as effectively a form of medicine.

If left untreated coeliac sufferers can experience infertility and a higher risk of bowel cancer and osteoporosis.

Chief executive of Coeliac UK Sarah Sleet condemned the decision of the Clinical Commissioning Group, and called on NHS Kernow to reinstate the specialist diet for the sufferers that the charity represents.

“The proposal by NHS Kernow CCG to remove gluten-free prescription services for everyone with coeliac disease, is being based on budgets rather than patient need or clinical evidence. 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.”

Between September last year and June 662 people were provide with gluten-free food on prescription.

 

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