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  • Writer's pictureAli


Ah, prescriptions. Everyone seems to have an opinion. What should be free? And more precisely, should we be able to get gluten-free?

Ever since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in the nineties, I have thought it odd I should have to go to the doctor to get food. I mean, seriously, food?!!!

It’s like having to go to your parents to ask permission to eat. Except that you have to go to 3 places instead of 1 – your first stop’s the NHS prescription card (or you’ll end up paying a whopping amount for a loaf of bread) and the second place is the doctor. When you reach your final destination (the chemist) you’ll be asked back in a few days to collect your order. Talk about laborious.

So those complainers are right: getting gluten-free on the NHS is silly. But not for the reasons they give. They don’t care about the fact you’ve spent half your week getting a bread roll. They think you’re a sap on society. Someone who gets pies and pizza for free. (Hello? Since when did ‘luxury’ items get prescribed? It’s bread, flour & pasta at my doctor’s and that’s pretty much your lot.)

So the misinformed need to be challenged. It’s only when you experience an illness for yourself that you realise how difficult things can be.

Here’s the first place to start: try going gluten-free for a week. Not easy, is it? Especially if you’re on the go. Are there gluten-free options for lunch? Did you double-check all the labels on ingredients at the supermarket? Do you often get take-aways because you don’t have time to cook? Do you know what’s in them? Furthermore, how much have you spent? If you’re used to paying a pound for a loaf of bread you’ll be shocked at having to pay three quid for the gluten-free version (which is also half the size). You’ll soon come to realise what Coeliacs go through.

So let’s go back to the argument about the NHS. It always seems to be making cuts (or overspending) so someone somewhere has to lose out. What’s it really for? Should it be there for anyone, no matter what difficulty they’re in, or should we take some personal responsibility?

I’m thinking about smokers who get free help on how to stop, obese people whose subsequent health issues such as heart problems and type 2 diabetes cost the NHS millions, and careless drivers who end up in hospital with a broken leg because they failed to stop at the lights.

Should these people be treated for free? All of them had choices. People with coeliac disease don’t. We didn’t do anything to get ill.

But then we have to think about the purpose of the NHS. Is it there to criticise? To point the finger? To judge? Surely the effects of smoking, obesity & broken limbs are punishment enough? Isn’t smoking, overeating & bad driving enough of a poor advert for people to avoid them?

Clearly not, or no-one would ever drink, smoke or drive badly.

But what about prescriptions? There has to come a point where someone pays. At the moment, although we pay for the prescription, coeliacs are still entitled to get one. It wouldn’t surprise me if this changes soon.

And change it must. It’s a ridiculous system. Why not give vouchers instead? Let’s save the trip to the doctor (a waste of NHS resources and our own time) and go straight to the supermarket armed with vouchers for money off staples like bread and pasta. And you know what? A voucher every now and then for a decent biscuit would be a real lift. When you come under scrutiny all the time and have a restricted diet, it’s not surprising a fair number of Coeliacs suffer from depression, and we all know the cost of poor mental health to the NHS.

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