NHS funding review for gluten-free food

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Suncream, cold remedies and gluten-free food could no longer be available on the NHS in England under a possible crackdown on “low value” medicines.

NHS England announced a review after local health bosses identified £400m of spending they believed had little or no clinical value.

The proposals could see an outright ban or tighter restrictions on some products being prescribed by GPs.

An initial list of 10 products has been drawn up by NHS Clinical Commissioners.

A number of them are available over-the-counter at a lower price than the cost to the NHS of prescribing them.

The products include omega 3 and fish oils, travel vaccines and gluten-free foods as well as a range of drugs for which there is said to be limited evidence.

Documents submitted to NHS England – and seen by the BBC – argue that the prescribing of gluten-free products dates back to the 1960s when there was not the choice there is now in supermarkets and shops.

Cutting back on prescriptions for the 10 products could save the NHS £100m a year, the document says.

NHS Clinical Commissioners represents local health managers who are in charge of spending.

‘Low value’ medicines on the list and their annual cost to the NHS:

  • £30.93m on Liothyronine to treat underactive thyroid
  • £21.88m on gluten-free foods
  • £17.58m on Lidocaine plasters for treating a form of neuralgia
  • £10.51m on Tadalafil, an alternative to Viagra
  • £10.13m on Fentanyl, a drug to treat pain in terminally ill patients
  • £8.32m on the painkiller Co-proxamol
  • £9.47m on travel vaccines
  • £7.12m on Doxazosin, a drug for high blood pressure
  • £6.43m on rubs and ointments
  • £5.65m on omega 3 and fish oils

Source: NHS Clinical Commissioners

NHS Clinical Commissioners – which represents local health managers who are in charge of spending – also highlights other products, including suncream, cough and cold remedies and indigestion and heartburn medicines which could bring the saving to £400m a year.

A spokesman for NHS England said: “The increasing demand for prescriptions for medication that can be bought over the counter at relatively low cost, often for self-limiting or minor conditions underlines the need for all healthcare professionals to work even closer with patients to ensure the best possible value from NHS resources.”

The news comes ahead of a major announcement by NHS England later this week on the future of the health service.

NHS funding review for gluten-free food

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