Greater Huddersfield and North Kirklees CCGs will stop the routine prescribing of gluten-free foods in 2017, which they estimate could save them around £283,000 a year.
Gluten-free foods are now “widely available” in local pharmacies and supermarkets, where they are cheaper for the public to buy than for the NHS to supply them, the CCGs claimed in a joint statement last week (January 11).
The decision came after “careful consideration” and a public consultation, which received over 700 responses, the CCGs said. They stressed they would continue to work with community pharmacists to “communicate the changes to patients” and “support those who may be affected”.
Using the budget differently
Alongside gluten-free prescriptions, the CCGs have also scrapped prescriptions for other products (see box below), including sunscreens, emollients for minor skin conditions, and infant formula for lactose intolerance. The CCGs estimate this could save them £1.1 million per year.
GP and chair of NHS North Kirklees' governing body, David Kelly, said the CCG had to look at using its budget “in a different way”.
“Decisions like this are difficult and we know that some people will find them hard to accept, but the money can be spent on things that have more impact on people’s heath,” Dr Kelly said.
The CCGs have also decided that requests by patients for “more expensive brands of medicines” will no longer be supported where a generic alternative is available.
They highlighted that unnecessary prescribing of branded medicines can cost the NHS “up to 56 times more than the equivalent generic products” and estimates around £400,000 could be saved in their area by ceasing these prescriptions.
It gave the example of atorvastatin, which can be prescribed in place of Lipitor, and omeprazole, which can be prescribed in place of Losec.