Pharmacy to be first stop for more Scots

Existing schemes to be merged and expanded so more people go to their pharmacist first

Tuesday 10th September 2019

Two successful programmes for people to seek help from their community pharmacy are to be consolidated in a new combined service set to be launched next year.

From April, an enhancement to the current NHS Scotland Minor Ailment Service, which has been available across Scotland to designated patients, and Pharmacy First, will see consultations, advice, treatment and referrals available for more patients, in a bid to make community pharmacy the “first point of call for non-urgent health care and advice”.

Community Pharmacy Scotland says the new service will bring together existing pharmacy-based treatment options for common illnesses but will be available to “many more patients”.

The aim is to reduce pressure on other parts of the primary care system. It’s estimated minor health conditions take up 13% of GPs visits – and 5% of emergency department attendances.

Currently, young people, older citizens and those in other specific categories– mirroring groups entitled to free prescriptions in the days when Scots had to pay a fee – can access consultation and treatment for complaints including earaches, indigestion and pain through the NHS Minor Ailment Service, free at the point of care.

A scheme opening this service to everyone registered with a local GP has been piloted in Inverclyde.

Meanwhile, Pharmacy First lets eligible patients access consultation and treatment, where appropriate, for conditions such as simple urinary tract infections and impetigo - without having to see their GP.

Under the new simpler, more streamlined initiative – yet to be named – people with non-urgent conditions would first visit their community pharmacist and get the relevant consultation, treatment and advice, or be triaged on elsewhere if necessary.

Pharmacists will be able to offer a “wider range of services to a wider range of people”.

Community Pharmacy Scotland and the Scottish Government are currently in the process of developing the new model.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said everyone registered with a GP practice would be able to access the scheme from April 2020.

A report in January found nearly 90% of users surveyed rated the minor ailment service 10/10.

A further 60% said they would have gone to their local GP if the service was not available.

Others said they would not have treated their condition or would have gone to A&E.