Hertfordshire NHS proposals branded short-sighted

PUBLISHED: 16:25 22 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:36 22 August 2017

Kathy Cole with her prescribed gluten free bread is concerned that the East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group is proposing to cut gluten-free prescriptions. Picture: Danny Loo

Kathy Cole with her prescribed gluten free bread is concerned that the East and North Herts Clinical Commissioning Group is proposing to cut gluten-free prescriptions. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Plans by the NHS in Hertfordshire to restrict the prescription of gluten-free staple food in a bid to tackle a funding crisis have been called “short-sighted”, with concerns it will lead to bigger health problems for patients.

Facing a health and care funding gap forecast to reach £550 million by 2021, the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Herts Valleys CCG launched a public consultation last month proposing to restrict health services.

Plans include axing NHS-funded IVF and forcing smokers and obese patients to make bigger health improvements before surgery, as well as restricting gluten-free staples on prescription.

Knebworth Surgery patient Kathy Cole has coeliac disease, where the body’s immune system reacts to gluten and attacks itself.

The 64-year-old has a repeat prescription for six gluten-free rolls and a loaf of gluten-free bread, and is unable to buy the same products in a supermarket.

She says restricting gluten-free staples on prescription is a false economy. “I think it’s very short-sighted,” she said. “If people don’t stick to a gluten-free diet they end up with long-term health problems.

“I have noticed a terrific improvement since I changed my diet.”

Coeliac UK’s chief executive, Sarah Sleet, said: “The removal of access to gluten-free core staples on prescription has a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable, with high prices putting them beyond the reach of many on low or fixed incomes.

“The provision of gluten-free staple food on prescription is essential to prevent long-term damage to health.”

Sarah also highlighted the basic cost of gluten-free food on prescription is £194.24 per patient per year, whereas treatment of a hip fracture costs on average £27,000, concluding that: “Given around 40 per cent of adults with coeliac disease have osteoporosis or osteopenia at diagnosis, there is a real risk short-term savings will result in long-term expense.”

Dr Hari Pathmanathan, chairman of the East and North Hertfordshire CCG, said: “We are committed to reaching as many people as we possibly can to seek views on these proposals.”

There will be NHS Let’s Talk Information Stall at Lister Hospital on Friday, August 25, from 10am to 2pm.

A public consultation event will be held on Wednesday, September 6, 6pm to 7.30pm at the Focolare Centre, 69 Parkway, in WGC.

Visit www.healthierfuture.org.uk/NHSLetsTalk before September 14 to contribute to the consultation.

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