Should gluten-free food be available on prescription?

Recently, the subject of gluten-free foods has been a hot topic, with government proposals to scrap the current system of offering this food on prescription.

As a coeliac, I can’t eat foods containing gluten, so it’s a subject that’s close to my heart. I’ve suffered from this condition for six years now, and can honestly say I’ve never even considered getting my food on prescription – it’s my opinion the NHS isn’t there for us to get food and do our shopping. It’s to provide free medical treatment and discounted medicines by a prescription service.

As we all know and is becoming clearer by the day, the NHS isn’t a bottomless pot of money, and cuts do need to be made. Providing gluten-free food on prescription costs the NHS over £21 million. Our country simply cannot afford it and we need to prioritise what is essential and what isn’t.

I understand that over 10 years ago it was more difficult in the UK to get gluten-free alternatives and it was considered to be more of a specialist food. However, I do know many people who have just adjusted their diets to not have bread or pasta, so they naturally avoided the gluten.

Supermarket shopping and eating out…

Most supermarkets these days have a very good range of gluten-free and free-from products available. It has been argued that these products are very expensive, so not easily affordable for many people. I certainly accept that they aren’t cheap, but I do think you can shop for these products without breaking the bank.

Some of the items currently available on prescription are pizza bases, crackers and crispbreads. Now I really think I can live without them if I couldn’t afford to buy them!

Restaurants and cafés are getting better at providing gluten-free options, so if I really fancy a pizza I can go to Pizza Express, Zizzi’s, Dominos and Prezzo for my fix, or I can spend £1.50 on a gluten-free pizza base from the supermarket and make my own.

Many supermarkets now have their own branded products which, just like ‘regular’ food, is cheaper than branded products. Breakfast cereal is also on the prescription list, but if you read the labels on the packets, you’ll find some cereals are already gluten free such as Corn Flakes or Rice Krispies, and they are much cheaper than the special gluten-free alternatives.

Over recent years, gluten has been added to some processed foods to bulk them up, but again there are other ways to do this. I can never understand why soup, for example, should contain gluten when you can use other items to thicken it, such as potatoes or corn flour.

If you cook from scratch, rather than buying processed ready meals, eating without gluten isn’t too difficult. At home my husband eats the same as me. Sometimes he will have his own bread, but he eats corn pasta –  as do my friends or family when they come round for a meal.

Personally, I feel there are many more illness, conditions and diseases that need funding. I would rather my National Insurance and tax payments went towards cancer medication, or a new hospital or recruiting more medical staff or even research.

I would be ashamed of myself if I got food through prescription on the NHS.

M J Aslin

About M J Aslin

I'm a freelance writer from Nottingham. I have an old soul and believe I was born long before my birth certificate indicates. I write about life and observations from throughout my life, from my old soul perspective of being judged by my age, despite feeling and acting older than my years. You can read my blog here.

  • Imogen Jamieson

    I agree with your comments and observations but I would be interested to hear the other side of the story….as there must be another side surely?! Anyone out there who can explain why gluten free should remain available on prescription?

  • Sam

    In my opinion…Yes absolutely. I am gluten free and dairy free.

    The government should be withdrawing support on this as supermarkets have much more availability to support in this area than when the prescriptions process began.

    Where the government should be supporting is to get the supermarkets to lower the prices of all free from foods. We are charged an extortionate amount for basic foods such as porridge oats (which do not contain gluten!) due to the harvesting and storing process has to be kept separate.

    The prescriptions are for the minority of people. To help more people the efforts and support into driving down prices will benefit everyone.

  • Jeanne Ellin

    Coeliac can be harder to manage if combined with other disorders and difficult as it may be a case by case review might be fairer. Cooking from scratch is not always possible for everyone lack of skill or time or as in the case with m. e, . lack of energy. I do not want to take any more than I need from the nhs and do not have such prescription for my coealic disease but try to be less judgemental of needs and difficulties beyond my experience. In time I might become weaker and ready foods might be easier for carers to manage so I might in future have such needs within a very basic budget. No holidays, meals out cinema or theatre trips charity shop wear.

  • Deborah