Dudley clinical commissioning group (CCG) has commissioned a minor ailments scheme to improve patient care and make cost savings for the NHS, bucking the trend of the schemes being wound down elsewhere.
While some CCGs are decommissioning minor ailments schemes, on 1 June 2018 Dudley CCG launched an initiative to enable patients in the region to be treated for a range of minor health conditions at their local community pharmacy.
Both independent community pharmacies and big multiples have signed up to the scheme, which treats conditions including acute coughs, diarrhoea, earache and simple eczema in children.
Jag Sangha, pharmaceutical adviser at Dudley CCG, said: “We believe that we should be encouraging people to use services appropriately and that often the quickest and easiest way to get advice and medicines (if needed) for a range of minor health conditions is at a local community pharmacy.
Sangha said 43 pharmacies were accredited to deliver the new Pharmacy First scheme in Dudley, “which we believe will bring productivity and cost savings to the health system in the borough, along with improving the experience of care for our patients”.
Some CCGs have scrapped their minor ailments schemes following a decision by NHS England in March 2018 to rule out routine prescribing of common over-the-counter products.
And Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, has said that CCGs have “moved on” from commissioning minor ailments schemes to using more digitally led services instead.
Sangha said the CCG was “conscious of the inequality of access” to medicines that would be provided through the minor ailments schemes for some people on low incomes.
“We know that this sometimes drives people to use a GP appointment so as to access advice and treatment at no cost to themselves,” he said.
“This scheme will encourage the right use of our services in Dudley. We will monitor the scheme at regular intervals.”
Pete Szczepanski, chief officer at Dudley local pharmaceutical committee (LPC), said his members had welcomed the new minor ailments scheme and encouraged residents to seek advice on minor ailments, such as coughs, colds and headaches, from their pharmacist.
He said the LPC was working closely with Dudley CCG to expand pharmacy services.
“We are constantly looking for opportunities to improve the healthcare of local residents of Dudley,” he said.
Szczepanski added that the benefits of this approach meant “patients have better, quicker access to healthcare, it frees up GP time and ultimately saves the NHS money”.