Withdrawing gluten-free food from prescriptions in England: a mixed-methods study to examine the impact of policy changes on quality of life.
Peters M., Crocker H., Jenkinson C., Violato M.
BACKGROUND: Some local areas in England stopped have gluten-free prescriptions for coeliac disease. An explanatory mixed-methods study has investigated the impact of these changes. METHODS: A cross-sectional survey with 1697 participants was followed by 24 qualitative interviews. The survey included questions on the use of prescriptions and healthcare services, as well as the Coeliac Disease Assessment Questionnaire (CDAQ) to assess quality of life. The survey data were analysed by descriptive statistics, analysis of variance and regression analysis, and the interviews were analysed by thematic analysis. Findings from the interviews guided the survey analysis. RESULTS: Dietary burden was significantly different between prescribing and nonprescribing areas, with little impact on other aspects of quality of life. Survey participants in nonprescribing areas who felt more impacted by the prescription changes reported a lower quality of life. Satisfaction with and use of services was lower in nonprescribing areas. Interviews indicated that, after initial frustrations, most people adapted to the changed prescription policy. However, there was a clear preference for gluten-free prescriptions to be available, in particular for staple foods. CONCLUSIONS: The main quality of life impact was on Dietary burden. It is encouraging that most participants in the present study maintained a good quality of life. However, issues of worse experiences of care, lower follow-up opportunities and inequity arose, and these should be taken into consideration in decisions on gluten-free food prescriptions. The new guidelines for the National Health Service in England have retained prescriptions for bread and flour mixes, which is more limited than the range of staple foods preferred in the present study.