Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight gluten-free NHS cuts plan 'concerning'

Bread Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye

Plans to cut NHS funding for gluten-free foods for patients on the Isle of Wight are "extremely concerning", a coeliac disease charity has said.

The island's clinical commissioning group (CCG) said it is spending about £226,000 a year on gluten-free foods.

It is running a public consultation over plans to stop the service from April.

Coeliac UK said gluten-free foods were more expensive and not readily available.

Isle of Wight CCG said it had been providing the service for 30 years and when it started gluten-free foods were not available in supermarkets.

It said it was reviewing the service due to a "limited budget" and "as part of prioritising healthcare spending to reflect the current needs of the population".

'Patchy provision'

Coeliac UK said: "We are extremely concerned by the proposal and will be submitting a formal response to the consultation."

It added patients would be left without support if the service was cut and may not stick to a gluten-free diet which could lead to long-term health problems such as osteoporosis or infertility, and could end up costing the NHS "a lot more".

Sarah Sleet, from the charity, said: "The expansion of 'free from' aisles in large supermarkets masks the reality of very patchy provision.

"Small stores and budget supermarkets have little, if any, gluten-free staples.

"Additionally, high prices make such products unaffordable for some."

However, the CCG said it was more expensive for the NHS to supply gluten-free foods to patients than it was for people to buy it themselves because of the prescription process.

The consultation runs until 21 October.

Coeliac disease - which has no cure - is an autoimmune condition caused by a reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

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