Changes to prescriptions will affect low income families says Portsmouth group

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SUPPORT groups have criticised NHS plans to scrap prescriptions for gluten-free food, omega-3 supplements and travel vaccinations.

They say changes to what people can get for free will have a big impact on those with low income.

NHS England is having a consultation as it works to develop new guidelines to stop GPs prescribing items which are available over the counter for a lower cost.

The guidelines for clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) will initially be developed around 10 medicines deemed ineffective, unnecessary or inappropriate for the NHS.

Kate Dowell is the organiser for the south-east Hampshire coeliac group, based in Portsmouth, and is also allergic to gluten.

The Gosport teacher said: ‘I am not entirely surprised by these proposals because GPs are already limiting what gluten-free products they will prescribe.

‘Unfortunately the people who will be most affected are those who cannot afford the basic staples like bread, flour and pasta.’

Ms Dowell said when she was first diagnosed, her GP would give her prescriptions for bread, flour, pizza bases, pasta and biscuits. But now, it is mainly bread and flour.

She added: ‘The impact on low income families will outweigh the financial benefits for the NHS.’

As well as gluten-free food, the list also includes omega-3 and fish oils, lidocaine plasters, tadalafil which can help with erectile dysfunction, fentanyl which helps with pain, and travel vaccines.

These are thought to cost £128m a year, NHS England said.