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Gluten-free food

Portfolio politics

Louise Newson

Thursday, 09 February 2017

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gluten free_shutterstock_569767177.jpgThe incidence of coeliac disease is reported at around 1% although I know on our practice we do not have that many patients. It is known to be underdiagnosed in the UK.

However, in recent years there has been a “healthy eating” trend leading to many more people choosing to have a gluten-free diet even though they do not have coeliac disease. This means that many more supermarkets now stock “gluten-free” labelled foods and there is a real plethora of gluten-free recipes readily available. In addition, many restaurants clearly indicate on their menus which dishes are gluten free.

I was really shocked to recently read that the NHS are wasting a staggering £25.7 million each year on prescribing gluten-free food for our patients with coeliac disease.

What is really surprising, is that the cost to the NHS is greater than the cost of these products if bought from shops. So for example, the cost of 500 g gluten-free pasta is £6.73 when prescribed on the NHS compared with a supermarket price of just £1.20.

So should we really be prescribing these products? Where should it stop? We don’t prescribe diabetic patients “low-sugar” foods, nor do we prescribe fruit and vegetables to our obese patients.

In some areas, CCGs are already stopping GPs prescribing gluten-free foods but I am not sure that this is fair if in other areas patients are allowed to have these foods prescribed. There should be a national decision made about this.

Shouldn’t the NHS change this and let this colossal amount of money be spent more carefully elsewhere in the already failing NHS?

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Louise Newson

Louise is a part-time GP in Solihull, as well as a writer for numerous medical publications, including She is an Editor and Reviewer for e-learning courses for the RCGP. She is an Editor for Geriatric Medicine journal and the British Journal of Family Medicine. Louise has contributed to various healthcare articles in many different newspapers and magazines and is the spokesperson for The Information Standard. She has also done television and radio work. Louise is a medical consultant for Maverick TV and has participated regularly in ‘Embarrassing Bodies Live from the Clinic’. Louise has three young children and is married to a consultant urological surgeon. Although her spare time is limited she enjoys practising ashtanga yoga regularly and loves road cycling – she has raised over £2K for a local charity, Molly Olly Wishes by competing in a 120km cycle ride!
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