PRESCRIPTIONS for gluten-free cakes and biscuits have been stopped in Bolton — because some patients are getting too fat.

Health chiefs have decided to stop allowing people diagnosed with coeliac disease to get alternative sweet items from the NHS.

They say the policy is at odds with promoting healthy eating.

Changing it will also save money, with about £143,000 spent on prescribing gluten-free foods each year.

There are about 2,500 coeliacs in Bolton, whose bodies cannot tolerate gluten, a protein found in wheat.

Traditionally, coeliac disease patients have been able to get prescriptions for specialist foods, which are more expensive than normal products and used to be difficult to access.

Although many still have to pay for prescriptions, patients say that it still works out much cheaper.

Now NHS Bolton, the primary care trust (PCT) which oversees local health services, has taken cakes, sweet biscuits and cake mix off the list. Items like bread and rolls will still be available.

Stephen Woods, from the PCT, said: “The prescriptions include about 1,700 biscuits, cakes and cake mixes, which doesn’t fit with healthy eating advice.

“Lots of patients who require gluten-free food don’t take advantage of obtaining it on prescription, but some do obtain excessive quantities, which is the reason for the additional guidance.

“We noticed patients prescribed large quantities with a body mass index of over 26, which indicated that perhaps we were encouraging poor eating habits.”

Body mass index (BMI) is an indicator of healthy body weight, and a score of more than 25 is rated overweight and more than 30 is obese.

The PCT has highlighted an example where a patient was getting high levels of products, with their BMI rising from 22.3 in 1995 to 36.2 by 2011, and therefore might have been connected.

Norma McGough, head of diet and health team at Coeliac UK, a charity which supports people with the disease, said: “We strongly support the continued prescription of gluten-free staple foods, like bread and flour.

“Research suggests ready access to prescription food improves adherence to the gluten-free diet, which is the only treatment for coeliac disease.”

The condition affects one in 100 people. For more information, visit or call 0845 305 2060.