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Details released for pharmacy gluten-free food service in Scotland

Gluten-free bread

Gluten-free bread

Source: Lucid Waters/

Patients wanting to use the pharmacy gluten-free food service will need a GP referral form

Community pharmacists in Scotland will be able to start supplying gluten-free foods via a new NHS service from early next year.

Details of the additional pharmaceutical service are described in an NHS circular published yesterday (3 December 2013). It explains that, once registered with a pharmacy for the service, patients will not have to request prescriptions for gluten-free items from a GP. Instead, a pharmacist will be able to supply the items required via a CPUS prescription form (a standard community pharmacist prescription form, originally used for urgent supply services).

To be eligible, patients will need a GP or dietitian to complete a referral form stating the diagnosis and number of units of gluten-free food required per month. Pharmacies will need this form to register a patient. Pharmacies also have to help patients select the most appropriate gluten-free foods, and agree how patients should request supplies (up to the number of units assigned).

The circular suggests that the choice of gluten-free foods should be restricted by a local formulary produced by NHS boards: “The scope of gluten-free foods which may be dispensed by community pharmacy contractors will be subject to a published local formulary … to optimise value for money and clinical effectiveness.”

Pharmacies can opt to provide the service from 3 February 2014, with GPs and dietitians able to issue referral forms from 20 January. The service will initially run for a 12-month trial period. According to the circular, a review of this trial will “focus on the clinical benefit for the patients concerned and cost effectiveness for NHS Scotland” in comparison with the previous arrangements.

Community Pharmacy Scotland said that the service will result in patients benefiting from greater flexibility and improved access. Mark Feeney, CPS policy and development pharmacist, said: “CPS is pleased to be working with all stakeholders to deliver greater care for patients who require gluten-free foods. We believe the trial period will demonstrate the positive impact community pharmacy can have when delivering patient care.”

The service will be remunerated through the “operations and development payment” announced earlier this year (PJ 2013;291:131). Gluten-free foods supplied will be reimbursed at Drug Tariff prices.

Mr Feeney explained that the operations and development payment now has two elements. “The fixed element is £125 per month which is allocated to all contractors who opt in to provide the gluten-free service. The variable element is based on the percentage of CMS [chronic medication service] registered patients assessed and high risk/new medicines activity,” he said.

See also: CPS gluten free key facts sheet

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2013.11131430

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