National charity welcomes changes to South Yorkshire gluten free prescribing guidelines
Coeliac UK welcomes the decision by NHS South Yorkshire Integrated Care Board (ICB) to align its policy for gluten free prescriptions for all those with a diagnosis of coeliac disease across their four places of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. Residents will have access to gluten free staples including gluten free bread and flour mix on prescription. This not only protects provision of gluten free staple products across the ICB but crucially reinstates gluten free prescribing in Sheffield which was removed in December 2017.
Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition, affecting around 1 in every 100 people. Symptoms are wide ranging but can include bloating, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea and tiredness. Extra intestinal issues can be very diverse and include anaemia, low bone density, skin rashes, recurrent mouth ulcers, loss of balance, sensory symptoms, fertility problems, anxiety and depression. When a person with coeliac disease eats gluten, even a crumb, it can cause debilitating symptoms and in the long term, gut damage. There is no cure for the condition and the only treatment is a strict gluten free diet for life, which amidst the cost of living crisis poses an additional challenge for people with coeliac disease.
The policy decision follows a review carried out by NHS South Yorkshire ICB earlier in the year which sought to align its gluten free prescribing guidelines across its four places. The ICB took over responsibility for commissioning healthcare treatments for South Yorkshire from Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in July 2022.
NHS South Yorkshire ICB met with a range of stakeholders including Coeliac UK and healthcare professionals and drew on research into the cost of gluten free food and the role of staple products in the diet. An equality impact assessment was carried out and a report provided to the board. This resulted in the decision to align its policy with Coeliac UK prescribing guidance, on health equality grounds.
In England, following a 2017 Department of Health and Social Care review, bread and flour mix can be prescribed for those with a diagnosis of coeliac disease where Integrated Care Board policies allow. These policies differ across the country.
A recent Coeliac UK report revealed a weekly gluten free food shop can be as much as 20% more expensive than a standard weekly food shop. A gluten free loaf of bread is on average 4.3 times more expensive than a standard gluten containing loaf and there is even more disparity between the cheapest products, with the cheapest gluten free loaf of bread costing 7.2 times more than the cheapest gluten containing loaf, gram for gram.
Tristan Humphreys, Head of Advocacy, Coeliac UK said:
“We were fully engaged from the beginning and are delighted that NHS South Yorkshire ICB has taken this decision. These changes are a much-needed lifeline for those with coeliac disease across the South Yorkshire region protecting provision across Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham, whilst extending it for those in Sheffield. This is especially welcome in light of the current cost of living crisis.
We encourage all other ICBs planning to review their policies to follow this example and to engage with us. NHS South Yorkshire ICB have recognised the important role gluten free prescriptions play in supporting those with coeliac disease and shown the way for other ICBs across the country.”
Written by: Rother Radio