Luton Clinical Commissioning Group

NHS Luton Clinical Commissioning Group


Blog: There is still time to have your say on prescribing in Luton

04 December 2017

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I was delighted when BBC Three Counties invited me to appear on their Sunday afternoon Health Show with presenter Nana Akua last weekend.

Not only do I love talking about medicines, but I am also passionate about making sure that we at Luton Clinical Commissioning Group (LCCG) spend every penny we get wisely, to give everyone in Luton the best possible access to medicines.  So I was keen to take the opportunity to interact with listeners about the proposals currently under consultation in Luton - to limit prescribing gluten-free food and medicines that can be bought over the counter.

As I explained to listeners on Sunday, gluten-free bread, flour and pasta have been given on prescription to patients who were diagnosed with coeliac disease since the late 1960s, when it was less easy to buy them. These days, a wide range of gluten-free foods are sold in many supermarkets. Naturally gluten free foods are also widely available such as potatoes, vegetables, meat and rice.

Medicines that treat minor illnesses, such as coughs and colds remedies, antihistamines or some skin creams, are also widely available over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets. This means that people can treat themselves at home rather than going to their GP for a prescription.

The NHS pays much more for the same gluten-free foods and over the counter medicines, such as paracetamol, than a consumer would if they bought the product at a local supermarket. The NHS also pays additional fees in handling charges.

By limiting the provision of gluten free food on prescription the service could save over £80,000 a year, and by stopping the provision of over the counter medicines (for short term, minor illnesses) we could save around half a million pounds annually.  This funding would free up hundreds of thousands of pounds a year to be reinvested in NHS services to help the population of Luton as a whole.

Our STP neighbours Milton Keynes and Bedfordshire have already limited the prescription of gluten free foods, and we are currently waiting to hear the outcome of the national consultation that NHS England carried out earlier this year on the same subject.  It will be interesting to see what the decision is from the national perspective – but we still have a local responsibility to review purely in Luton. 

There is still time to feedback and help inform our local decision - so make sure you take part in the consultation before 24 December by visiting the ‘Consultation and Engagement’ section in the ‘Patient and public voice’ tab at

To listen to the Health Show visit:


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