THE NHS Trafford Clinical Commissioning Group announced on November 2 that it will no longer prescribe gluten-free food to patients who need to follow a gluten-free diet.

Trafford CCG is faced with a deficit of £23 million so as part of its financial recovery plan, it has stopped supporting gluten-free food in an effort to save about £87,000 per year.

Gluten-free foods are a food staple for any patient who suffers from coeliac disease which is a digestive disorder triggered by gluten, a protein found in foods that contain wheat, barley or rye. When people who have coeliac disease eat gluten, the result is a reaction in their small intestine that can lead to symptoms such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and bloating and weight loss. The long-terms effects can lead to osteoporosis, malnutrition, becoming lactose intolerant and a risk of developing small bowel and lower intestine cancers.

Prescribing of products that are available on the high street has come under focus as the NHS face tough decisions on spending budgets.

As an example, paracetamol is available on the high street for as little as 25p so it would seem some patients could buy this independently and not via a prescription.

However, gluten-free food is sold at a premium price, with a small loaf of bread costing £3.30 and pasta about £2.49.

As a sufferer of coeliac disease, I fully support the CCG being more prudent with spending policies. However, with the high cost of gluten-free food staples such as bread and pasta, I am concerned that some patients will revert to eating products containing gluten that will have a long-term and more costly impact on their health and wellbeing and the NHS.

Under the previous prescriptions plan, I was able to pay for my prescription and get six loaves of bread. The equivalent cost for six loaves would be £19.80.

I didn’t order other products that were available such as biscuits and cakes as I don’t believe these are a food staple and also contain a high amount of fats and sugars.

Trafford CCG states it has a £23 million funding deficit, but as an Altrincham resident, it is disappointing that due to a lack of due diligence, we have a newly built health and wellbeing centre that remains unoccupied due to increased costs that local GPs could not support.

Trafford CCG discovered a £1.9 million funding gap once the building was completed and it remains empty.

It would appear that building a white elephant at a cost of £1.3 million per year for the next 30 years, has had a serious impact on budgets and it is looking for easy wins which will have a long-term impact on patients and increased care costs to the NHS.

My main concern is where does this cost saving lead to next?

Is the CCG now looking at diabetics, patients who suffer from skin conditions, etc, who will be forced to pay for products that are available on the high street?

I believe taking responsibility for your own health is important but when you have a disease that is beyond your control, a little understanding and empathy would be appreciated.

Kevin J Parker