The number of consultations per pharmacy given through the common ailments service (CAS) in Wales has more than doubled in the past year, according to official statistics.
The ‘Community pharmacy services in Wales, 2018/2019’ statistical release, published on 23 October 2019, showed that some 702 pharmacies in the country provided a total 43,158 consultations through the CAS in 2018/2019.
This is compared to 16,087 consultations across 544 pharmacies in 2017/2018, which equates to an increase from 29.4 consultations per pharmacy in 2017/2018, to 61.5 consultations per pharmacy in 2018/2019.
While almost nine in ten (87%) consultations were made by patients who had only used the service once, 10% of patients had used the service twice and just over 2% had used it more than twice, “with the highest number being 20 [times],” the report said.
Vaughan Gething, the Welsh health minister, told the Welsh Pharmacy Conference on 23 May 2019 that 97% of pharmacies in the country are now offering the CAS.
The service, which was first piloted in October 2013, enables pharmacists to treat 26 common illnesses, such as dry eye, indigestion and cold sores, in patients registered with the scheme through the Choose Pharmacy IT system. The CAS is open to anyone living in Wales or registered with a GP in Wales.
A spokesperson for the Welsh government told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the service is “a fantastic example of how we can more effectively utilise the skills of pharmacists to improve access to services in primary care”.
“Since the launch of the CAS, [more than] 100,000 consultations have been completed and over 80% of people accessing the service say they would have visited their GP, out-of-hours [service] or A&E if it had not been available,” they added.
According to the statistics, the most commonly reported ailment through the service was hay fever, accounting for 8,266 consultations.
The data also showed that 65% of the consultations related to females and 31% related to children under the age of 16 years.
Judy Thomas, director of contractor services at Community Pharmacy Wales, said there had been “an increase in CAS uptake and delivery by contractors as CAS starts to become embedded in usual practice plus as more pharmacists become accredited to provide the service”, adding that as of April 2019 there were 1291 pharmacists accredited to provide the service in Wales, compared with 673 in October 2017.
The report comes as pharmacies in England are signing up to offer the community pharmacy consultation service (CPCS) from 29 October 2019, through which patients will be referred to community pharmacy from NHS 111 for minor ailments, such as earache, nasal congestion and sore throat.
However, community pharmacists signing up to the service have expressed concern over the low number of patients currently referred through NHS 111 for minor ailments and its impact on funding levels for the sector.
Pharmacists offering the CAS are reimbursed based on the number of patients registered with the service at the pharmacy, while pharmacists offering the CPCS will be reimbursed at £14 per consultation.