The number of community pharmacies offering minor ailment schemes (MASs) has fallen by a third since 2017/2018, data published by NHS Digital have shown.
According to the latest publication of NHS Digital’s ‘General Pharmaceutical Services in England’ dataset on 7 November 2019, 1,404 pharmacies were providing minor ailment schemes in 2018/2019.
This compares to 2,167 pharmacies that provided the scheme in 2017/2018, with 444 pharmacies commissioned by NHS England on behalf of local authorities and 1,723 pharmacies commissioned by NHS England to provide enhanced services for the national body.
In 2018/2019, no pharmacies were commissioned by NHS England on behalf of local authorities for any services.
An investigation by The Pharmaceutical Journal in December 2018 revealed that a fifth of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) had decommissioned these types of schemes between 2015 and 2018.
This was in contrast with the devolved nations, where Scotland was expanding its pharmacy MAS, and Wales, where a common ailments service is available in 97% of Welsh pharmacies.
The MAS was central to the government’s plans for community pharmacy in 2008, when the then Department of Health published the white paper ‘Pharmacy in England: Building on strengths — delivering the future’, which included plans for MASs in all pharmacies in England.
MASs cost an average of £86,000 per CCG and were established to provide free NHS treatment for people with minor conditions, such as colds, allergies and minor skin conditions, and to reduce the number of patients who visit a GP for a prescription.