No more digestives for Lancashire coeliacs?

Following on from my previous post about restricted coeliac prescriptions in Yorkshire, it seems Lancashire is following suit. News today in The Bolton News says that treat foods are being ‘axed’. Is this part of a larger trend, then? Will we be seeing more PCTs curbing cake mixes and biscuits?

It’s been two months since I uploaded the previous post, and still I can’t make up my mind confidently on the issue. David – a coeliac and GF blogger from Ireland – posted in response last time, pointing out that there are no ‘treat’ prescription products in Ireland, but they do offer breakfast cereals. As he rightly points out, it’s the most important meal of the day – and that goes for coeliacs as well as non-coeliacs.

I’m beginning, I think, to lean towards the view that perhaps it would be better for so-called treat foods to be severely restricted, if not removed altogether – and perhaps replaced by cereals. As I suggested last time, it may undermine the ongoing efforts to have coeliac disease taken seriously. Is the risk worth it for a few digestives?

I suspect now that the ball appears to be rolling – there may be no stopping it. The nation’s purse strings are tightening, after all.

I think we need to be careful, however, to justify this possible move by highlighting examples of excessive weight gain supposedly because of prescription foods. The report in the Bolton News highlights a case of a patient receiving high levels of products, who subsequently gaining a lot of weight, becoming clinically obese.

It’s important to bear in mind that newly-diagnosed coeliacs can tend to put weight on, and this is because their healing guts are absorbing more nutrition and energy.

This, I feel, should not be used as an excuse to ‘punish’ either these individuals or coeliacs in general. Let’s face it, they need support and advice. We need, I suspect, research into additional factors which contribute to weight gain in coeliacs – and if prescription treat foods are among them, then it’s certainly time to take action.


  1. Roland

    The way I get food on prescription reminds me of how rationing must have been in the war! I don't remember it but I have read about it.

    To remove the pharmacy from the equation would save loads of money. The Govt should replace the GF prescription with an annual sum of money. Let me decide how to spend it. The big benefit apart from saving money is that it will boost the market for GF foods and hopefully encourage more businesses to enter it and supermarkets to give more shelf space/choice.

  2. Helen

    Sadly at the moment proper support and advice is severely lacking. I did a survey of my mailing list last year and an overwhelming number of them felt they need emotional support as well as advice on healthy eating. I was diagnosed in 2003 and I am putting a programme together to help newly diagnosed coeliacs as well as those that have ongoing health problems. If you would like to find out more please feel free to e-mail me on helen @

  3. Alex G

    @ Roland – Money? But surely you should be constrained to spend it on GF food only? How about GF vouchers – for products confirmed GF? That might work but they surely couldn't hand out cash!

    @ Helen – thanks for posting about your initiative. I'll tweet it too.

  4. Helen

    I'm pretty sure they have a voucher system in Italy where you can exchange them for certain gluten free products, I think that makes sense.

  5. Roland

    Alex – Yes money, it's not like we are going to fritter it away on chocolate biscuits. GF vouchers just adds another cost of printing and distributing them, redeeming them etc. Money is free of all that. It is recoginition that a GF lifestyle costs a bit more. From NHS point of view the payment will encourage Coeliacs to stay GF and avoid any costly health problems in the future.

  6. Alex G

    Coeliac UK research suggests that those coeliacs taking prescription food are more likely to stick to the diet than those who don't claim prescription food. I suspect giving coeliacs money could detrimentally affect the percentage of coeliacs adhering to the diet.


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