The National Health Service has come under fire after it was revealed that it spent £17 on one prescription gluten-free pizza – and that doesn’t include handling and delivery fees.
Gluten-free food products (like bread, cake mixes and biscuits) are currently available to those with coeliac disease (an autoimmune condition triggered by an intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye) on the NHS.
For more information about the gluten-free prescription service, take a look here.
However, it has been discovered that the NHS have been duped into paying extortionate prices as a result, with coeliac-friendly pizza bases costing four times the amount of a normal pizza.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, Dr Fayyaz Choudri shed light on the costly gluten-free food service, saying: “We saw there were occasions where there was a bread loaf costing £2.50 and there was a handling fee of £32.”
Unsurprisingly, it was also revealed that gluten-free prescriptions cost the NHS £27m last year.
Although the prescription service was created to help coeliac sufferers stick to a gluten-free diet – something sufferers are encouraged to do throughout their life to avoid the risk of osteoporosis, infertility and some cancers (illnesses linked to coeliac disease), concerns about rising costs have prompted health experts to evaluate the service.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has promised the area is ‘under ongoing review”, according to the BBC.
“We are currently considering how we might get better value from the prescribing of gluten-free products whilst ensuring patients continue to get the products they need," Lansley said in a statement.
Responding to these concerns, Coeliac UK agree that more needs to be done to lower the cost of prescription food products.
“The additional costs quoted in the media are of great concern to us. Agreement on the reasonable cost of products is made at a national level. We are aware that NHS commissioners have come across evidence of additional local charges being added to products and as a result are restricting access. The patient is losing out as a result,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“We need the situation resolved as quickly as possible to ensure this important service remains available, keeping people with coeliac disease healthy and avoiding adding more cost to the NHS long term.”
They also added that although they support the prescription of food staples like bread and pasta, they did not agree on hand-outs for cakes and chocolate biscuits.
“We do not support such prescribing. We have issued national guidance which states that prescriptions should focus on staple products such as breads, flours and pastas.”