London, England – The report that the National Health Service (NHS) spends £116 million on gluten-free food per year has caused an uproar earlier this week.
It was brought to the public’s attention the millions of euros spent on NHS gluten-free products, which are being prescribed to patients diagnosed with coeliac disease. The news created an impression that coeliacs are enjoying fast food using the taxpayers’ money. There were also comments that they are contributing to the obesity epidemic in the country. However, these opinions were quickly rebutted with legitimate and legal basis of the gluten-free food prescriptions.
However, coeliacs came in defense of the prescription of NHS gluten-free products. One is Rosie Norman, a registered dietitian, who is based in London. According to her, the prescription of gluten-free food has medical basis. Gluten-free foods such as cereals, flour and pasta are considered as ‘medicine’. She cited the fact that a strict diet of gluten-free food is the only proven treatment for persons with coeliac.
Barbara Holt, a gastroenterology specialist dietitian, pointed out that products without gluten are necessary for a balanced and healthy diet. She is working at King’s College Hospital. She mentioned her experiences in treating coeliacs. She said that she did not prescribe burger mixes, doughnuts and pasties to any of her patients. She emphasized that these are far different from NHS gluten-free products. It is misleading and unfair to think that dietitians are regularly prescribing fast food to patients.
There must also be clarification about the real budget allotted for gluten-free products. Based on records, the budget was £26.8 million and not £116 million. This equates to an annual cost per patient of £180 per year. In addition, the cost already includes preventive measure and treatment. This is far cheaper than treating a coeliac that does not strictly follow his or her prescribed diet.