Genius Foods ‘frustrated’ by prescriptive bread costs

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bread

Genius Foods ‘frustrated’ by prescriptive bread costs
Genius Foods says it is frustrated by additional charges levied on gluten-free bread that it supplies to the NHS in Wales, although the nation's government insists that talk of £32 loaves is incorrect.

Responding to recent media reports bemoaning the cost of gluten-free products to the NHS, Genius said in a statement that it supplied products to pharmacies at “exactly the same retail value as the supermarkets”​ and delivered them direct.

“Some pharmacies, however, choose to order through a wholesaler, and in these instances the wholesaler can opt to apply an additional administration charge for taking and placing these orders,”​ the firm added.

Stressing that it did not control charges for its prescription products (400g unsliced gluten-free white and brown breads), Genius said:

“This handling fee appears to be charged directly to the NHS. Genius Foods does not profit in any way from these charges.”

Unjustified administrative charge

Ceo of Coeliac UK, Sarah Sleet, said her charity was aware of “some very high administrative charges, on top of the set NHS price, being applied to a very small number of products by some wholesalers which appear unjustified”.

She said the additional charges should be investigated at a national level, and that Coeliac UK was talking to politicians and the NHS to “get the facts across”.

Recent press reports stated that a loaf of gluten-free bread cost the NHS in Wales £32 a time when prescribed to coeliacs.

But it appears that the £32 figure was a result of the nation’s Conservative party reading of statistics as referring to cost per loaf, rather than prescription.

Welsh health minister Lesley Griffiths said: "The actual cost for the single loaf of gluten-free bread in question is around £2.82, not the £32 claimed.

“The £32 cost quoted is for an average prescription on which several loaves are ordered at a time.”

400g Genius gluten-free loaves currently cost £2 online in Waitrose and Ocado.

Taxpayers foot bill

Figures sent to FoodManufacture.co.uk by shadow health minister Darren Millar’s office show that the Welsh NHS spent £1.496m on special foods (including gluten-free products) in 2006 and just over £2m in 2010.

“Many taxpayers will question why they are also footing the bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of snacks such as biscuits and cakes,” ​said Millar.

He added that special food had become much more widely available, and yet the number of prescriptions had risen.

“While no-one should underestimate the impact of a condition such as coeliac disease, the scale and increase of these costs is alarming.”

Griffiths disagreed: "If a GP determines a patient requires these products, they should be prescribed to maintain their health.

“It is wrong to question the judgement and professionalism of health professionals, who have best interests at heart in determining what is prescribed.”

Sleet said that, without prescriptions, patients would have to pay hundreds of pounds extra a year, since gluten-free bread and flour is 3-4 times more expensive than conventional products in shops.

Related topics: Ambient foods, Bakery

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