A NATIONAL charity has raised major concerns about a decision to withdraw gluten-free prescriptions for people with coeliac disease in Hampshire.

The new policy from NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight Integrated Care Board (ICB) came into force with immediate effect last month and means those with diagnosed coeliac disease in Hampshire can no longer access gluten-free bread and flour mix on prescription.

The ICB estimates its decision could impact around 1,600 people prescribed gluten-free foods in Hampshire, saving an estimated £350,000 per year.

Information published by the ICB on the decision to withdraw the prescription said it had done so because of a ‘postcode lottery’ of prescribing gluten-free products, bringing the ICB “into alignment across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight”.

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It added: “The decision was a difficult one to make, and the ICB considered a range of both clinical and social factors, including the wide availability of gluten-free products in supermarkets.”

It said those with coeliac disease can “follow a gluten-free diet without needing to have specially formulated gluten-free foods”, adding: “The NHS has a limited prescribing budget and a duty to use its resources wisely”.

Coeliac UK, a national charity, said the ICB has not provided evidence to patients or the charity to support the decision and it has called for an urgent meeting with the IBC to oppose the decision.

The charity said it is yet to hear directly from senior leadership at the ICB and has been forced to submit a Freedom of Information request asking for supporting documents behind the decision.

Tristan Humphreys, head of advocacy at Coeliac UK, said: “We are extremely disappointed that NHS Hampshire & Isle of Wight ICB has taken this decision and are shocked at their failure to consult with patients or Coeliac UK.

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“These changes remove a much needed lifeline for those with coeliac disease in the region at a time when the cost of living crisis is hitting people with coeliac disease particularly hard. To do so without appropriately assessing the evidence or speaking to patients about its impact is unacceptable.   

“Failure to support people with coeliac disease risks them developing serious long term conditions down the line, the cost of which overshadows that of gluten-free prescriptions. There is a complete lack of mitigation from the ICB for those affected by this decision, and we have grave concerns this decision will have a detrimental impact on the coeliac community across the region.   

“We urge the ICB to look again at this decision and do the right thing, based on the evidence.”  

Mum-of-two Katherine Clarke, from Hampshire, suffered from weight loss and neurological symptoms before she was diagnosed with coeliac disease aged 16.

She said: "The cost of my food shopping is only getting higher and higher. My family and I can’t afford for it to go up anymore. I feel hugely let down by this decision and worried about the future.”

Coeliac disease is a serious autoimmune condition, affecting around one in 100 people with symptoms including bloating, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea and tiredness. 


It can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis, neurological dysfunction, unexplained infertility, recurrent miscarriage and in rare cases even small bowel cancer.

A 2023 Coeliac UK report revealed a weekly gluten-free food shop can be as much as 20 per cent more expensive than a standard weekly food shop.

Dr Tim Cooper, deputy chief medical officer for NHS Hampshire and Isle of Wight, said the NHS must use funding "in the best way" and said "difficult decisions" are constantly made as a result. 

He added: "We are facing complex financial challenges across our local NHS system and are working hard with our partners to address these and, as part of this, we have had to review what is available on prescription and to address disparities.

“The decision to request gluten-free foods are no longer routinely prescribed was not taken lightly and took into consideration a range of both clinical and social factors, including the wider availability of gluten-free products in supermarkets.

“We recognise this change in guidance may have a negative impact on some people. GP practices will continue to support and advise patients on how best to monitor and manage their condition."

He welcomed feedback on the change and said anyone with an "exceptional medical reason" to receive gluten-free food on prescription should discuss this with their GP. 

Are you affected by this? Get in touch by emailing newsdesk@basingstokegazette.co.uk.