The NHS is wasting a “ludicrous” £25 million each year prescribing gluten-free food for coeliacs, a leading GP has warned.
The policy turns doctors into little more than grocers, Dr James Cave, a general practitioner and editor of the Drugs and Therapeutics Bulletin, said.
And he warned that the NHS is being “ripped off” by suppliers who charge more than the five times the price for gluten-free products.
“It’s ludicrous for the NHS to be treating a food product as a drug and to require GPs and pharmacists to behave as grocers,” said Dr Cave.
“It’s a time-consuming rigmarole and, for the NHS, a very expensive one.
“The eight basic gluten-free staples advised for people with coeliac disease are all cheaper from a supermarket than the NHS price. This is a scandal.”
Dr Cave was writing in the BMJ.
As an example, he said the NHS pays almost £7 for 500g of pasta. In the supermarket, the same product will cost £1.20.
Dr Cave argues that the NHS should switch to a voucher system where people who are coeliacs would be able to buy directly from high street stores.
“If we stopped prescribing gluten-free products tomorrow GPs would shout for joy and the NHS would stop being ripped off,” he said.