Health and Social Care Board Northern IrelandWith the recent headlines surrounding the withdrawal of gluten free food on prescription in some areas of England, Coeliac sufferers across Northern Ireland have been left wondering if their prescription service is under threat.

In January, the Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group, an NHS organisation serving around 175,000 people in South London, made the decision to remove gluten free food from the prescription service, sparking further fears for other areas in the UK.

Following a meeting between Gluten Free Ireland and the Patient Client Council (PCC) in November last year, the PCC arranged a meeting with the Health & Social Care Board (HSCB) who had issued the original guidance on gluten free food for Northern Ireland in November 2011.
This meeting took place in January with Gluten Free Ireland, the PCC and the HSCB to clarify the future of gluten free food on prescription.

Updated Guidance for Gluten Free Food on Prescription
As a result, the following guidance has been issued to all HSC Trusts:

Prescribing policy in Northern Ireland remains unchanged – GF Food is available on Prescription.

HSCB continue to endorse Coeliac UK Guidance for prescribing i.e. only the following staple foods should be prescribed:

  • Bread or Bread rolls
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Crackers and crispbreads
  • Flour/flour-type mixes
  • Oats
  • Pasta
  • Pizza bases

In order to access Gluten Free food on prescription in NI the following conditions must be met:

  1. All patients should have a confirmed diagnosis of Coeliac Disease, Dermatitis Herpetiformis or Steatorrhoea due to gluten sensitivity.
  2. Quantities supplied via prescription should follow the recommendations from Coeliac UK.
  3. A maximum of one month’s supply should be prescribed at a time.
  4. Only staple foods (as above) should be supplied on prescription as per Coeliac UK guidance – Items which are not consistent with healthy eating advice such as biscuits, cakes, muffins, pasties and sausage rolls should not be supplied on health service prescription.

Derek Thompson, director at Gluten Free Ireland: “This clarification from the Health & Social Care Board is a very welcome development and should make it much easier for Coeliacs to obtain their GF food on Prescription.”
The monthly quantities of prescription food which diagnosed sufferers are entitled to depend on a number of factors, including gender and age. Your GP or Dietitian will be able to advise you.

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