Coeliac disease can be a very debilitating condition where the person cannot consume wheat gluten, items which can be found in the majority of Western food substances. As a result, the NHS in the UK has provided free prescriptions for those suffering from coeliac disease to get their food.
However, in the age of austerity, and the entire reform of the National Health care system, Oxford Primary Care trust are looking to ban prescriptions for people suffering from coeliac disease.
There has been what may seem to be a completely justified outcry. The disease affects approximately 1 in 100 people, and such a decision by the PCT will have a detrimental effect on this percentage of people in Oxford.
However, the petition to Parliament is not going to resolve the miscellaneous problems that this issue raises.
First and foremost, it should be considered the coeliac’s not the only people to suffer from dietary specifics have a detrimental effect on their life. People who suffer from lactose, milk allergies, gluten intolerance (separate coeliac disease), wheat intolerance and sugar intolerances, are all affected. Then there are people that suffer from IBS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and other life changing bowel conditions who are forced to change their entire diets.
However, it is only people that suffer from coeliac disease who are effectively given their shopping for £10.40 A month.
(£10 a month refers to the NHS Prepayment Prescription card which is a godsend to people with long-term conditions were required to get regular prescriptions. Where a normal prescription costs £7.40, the Prepayment card allows you to make a payment of £10.40 a month and therefore covers all descriptions that you need for yourself for 12 months. For want of better terminology, it simply isn’t fair that one particular bowel diseases entitled to a shopping for £10.40, and all other types of bowel disease are not.)
Given that “we are all in this together”, and coeliac disease is not automatically preclude someone from working, one must wonder why they are allowed such financial considerations when all of the people are not. I don’t like peas, does this mean I’m automatically allowed to get my food on prescription?
Joking aside, there is an inconsistency in application that must be addressed.
Rather than putting a petition to the government to challenge one small area’s Primary Care Trust decision to address the issue directly, we should be actively campaigning to reduce the costs of specialist dietary food and bringing them in line with “normal” purchases.
If you look at the growing range of free-from foods, you will notice that they are generally priced at 120% minimum of so-called normal foods, not freely available and there is extreme difficulty in buying in bulk. This is largely due to manufacturers’ inability to apply economies of scale due to lower numbers of accessing specialist dietary foods. In the event that we campaign for local stores to hold more ranges of dietary foods, other than Mrs Crimble’s Macaroons (which most people don’t realise is a dietary specific biscuit anyway!), Manufacturers would be able to increase their production methods assupply increase therefore reducing the cost of their food, bringing it more in line with so-called “normal” purchases.
All the time we allow people suffering from Coeliac Disease to get items on prescription, we are allowing companies to include charging ludicrous prices as the Government is effectively paying them.
If governments can look at having an minimum alcohol price cap, why can they not look having a maximum price limit on dietary specific foods?