Use of the Welsh community pharmacy common minor ailments service increased by 46% during winter 2022/2023, compared with the year before, Eluned Morgan, Welsh minister for health and social services, has said.
Speaking in the Senedd on 2 May 2023, Morgan said that more than 100,000 pharmacy appointments had been provided under the minor ailments scheme, as part of the ‘Choose Pharmacy’ service, between November 2022 and March 2023.
Data provided to The Pharmaceutical Journal by Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) also show that, in some months over the winter, the use of the common ailments service increased by more than 100% on equivalent months the previous winter.
In a statement updating MSs on the Welsh emergency care programme, Morgan said: “Community pharmacies … play an increasingly important part in our response to rising demand for NHS services.
“Between November and the end of March this winter, community pharmacies provided more than 100,000 appointments for people with common minor ailments, a 46% increase on the number in the same period the previous winter. Whilst we recognise that there is not a silver bullet to overcome the ongoing daily challenges experienced by patients and staff, we do expect further positive impacts and continuous improvement against key programme measures in this coming year.”
Under the common ailments service, patients can be treated for a range of conditions in pharmacies, including hay fever, back pain, acne and head lice.
Some pharmacies also offer a sore throat test and treat consultation.
CPW said that since the new community pharmacy contractual framework was put in place in April 2022, there had been a significant impact on service delivery.
Its figures show that, during December 2022 alone, there was a 193% increase in the number of patients being seen (25,008), compared with December 2021, when a total of 8,524 patients were treated.
A spokesperson for CPW said: “The growth has been phenomenal and has shown the impact that community pharmacy can have in supporting the NHS and releasing pressures elsewhere in the system.
“December 2022 is the second highest month ever delivered of common ailments service consultations. December is traditionally a month where the pressures of dispensing often affect the levels of services available, but when the Strep A outbreak hit, community pharmacies in Wales responded by delivering a huge increase in sore throat test & treat (as part of the common ailments service).”
Commenting on the figures, Alwyn Fortune, policy and engagement lead for RPS Wales, said: “The statistics outlined in the Senedd by Eluned Morgan MS, highlights and reflects the incredible hard work community pharmacy teams undertake, ensuring patients have access to advice and treatment.
“The delivery of more than 100,000 common ailment consultations between November and the end of March, not only demonstrates the essential clinical role community pharmacies play in keeping their local population well, but also the trust and confidence patients have in them to seek advice.”