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Gluten-free food service available from pharmacists

Published: 18 Sep 2015 11:55

New service will make access easier for patients

Coeliac patients and those with a clinical need for gluten-free food will now be able to get their prescriptions directly from their local pharmacy, rather than needing to go to their GP.

A Gluten-Free Food Service will be fully introduced across the country, following an 18 month trial which received overwhelming support from patients, pharmacists and GPs.

The service allows eligible patients to register with a community pharmacy of their choice and collect their repeat prescriptions for gluten free food supplements directly from the pharmacist, rather than having to request individual prescriptions from their GP.

To be eligible, patients must have a clinically confirmed diagnosis of coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis, live in Scotland and be registered as an NHS patient with a GP practice.

In Scotland, supported by Coeliac UK, prescribers are recommended to only prescribe staple foods such as bread, flour, pasta and cereal.

The review of the 18 month pilot found strong support for the continuation of the service. In response to the review survey, 93 per cent of patients, 92 per cent of community pharmacists and 98 per cent of GPs who took part agreed that the trial should continue as a permanent service.

During the pilot, 82 per cent of patients switched from getting their prescription from a GP to their community pharmacy. 85 per cent of GPs responding to the survey said that the Gluten-Free Food Service had reduced their workload.

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: "I am pleased to be able to confirm today that the Scottish Government will establish a full service within community pharmacies to allow patients direct access to gluten-free food on prescription.

"There are around 5,000 patients in Scotland who will benefit from these changes - helping those who have a clinical need for a gluten-free diet to have greater control and more flexibility in managing their condition.

"For those patients affected, maintaining a gluten-free diet can improve their health and prevent NHS treatment further down the line. This is particularly important for patients on low incomes who may not be able to afford to maintain this specialised diet.

"This national service is the first of its kind in the UK and, as the review has shown, it is a system that is welcomed by patients, GPs and pharmacists, alike.

"As well as making best use of the clinical skills of pharmacists, the Gluten-Free Food Service frees up GP time which can be better spent dealing with patients with more complex needs. It is an example of how collaborative working within primary care can better manage the demands on individual GPs – an approach we are looking to replicate across our primary care services."

Sarah Sleet, Chief Executive of Coeliac UK, said: "Coeliac UK is delighted the Gluten-Free Food Service is being incorporated into NHS services provided by community pharmacies in Scotland. The Service received strong backing from our members as it empowers them to make informed, varied and responsible decisions about the gluten-free food they need, whilst freeing up valuable GP time.

"The only treatment for people with coeliac disease is a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet but lack of adherence to this diet puts health at risk. Gluten-free food on prescription plays a vital part in helping those with coeliac disease stick to the diet and to stay healthy."

Notes to editors

The report, Review of the Gluten-Free Food Additional Pharmaceutical Service, is available on the Scottish Government website:

Review of the Gluten-free Food Additional Pharmaceutical Service: Scottish Government Response is available on the Scottish Government website:

Gluten-free food products have been available on prescription for a number of years on the advice of the UK Advisory Committee on Borderline Substances (ACBS) which is responsible for advising on the prescribing of foodstuffs and toiletries.

ACBS approved gluten-free products may be prescribed on the NHS. In Scotland, supported by Coeliac UK, prescribers are recommended to only prescribe staple foods e.g. bread, flour, pasta, cereal.

The Service will be kept under review to ensure that it continues to provide quality of care to patients and value for money for NHSScotland.