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Xrayser: Major reservations about minor ailments success

My career could have been reduced to supervising the drug equivalent of a food bank, says Xrayser

“Has a prescription arrived for my young son?” No. “It’s Saturday, and the surgery is closed, isn’t it? We’re about to go away on holiday.” Has he run out? We might be able to make an emergency supply…

“It’s his nappy rash barrier cream.” Ah, well, that’s not prescription-only so you could buy a tube… “Don’t be ridiculous! It’s free if I get a prescription. Can’t you do something?” Yes, I’ll tell you what, as a taxpayer I’ll be paying for it anyway so why don’t we just save the cost of a GP script and I’ll just give you a tube.

There – now you can jet off on your two-week Caribbean holiday while I stand here until the end of the day nursing my headache and my ulcer.

If I’m honest, I’m not convinced the national minor ailments service negotiations broke down over “price, specification and service model”, as NHS England told C+D last month, but more around the issues of funding a bottomless pit of free over-the-counter medicaments.

Maybe this will never be resolved when the NHS is reportedly viewed on so many parenting websites as a health system that is a freebie at the point of delivery – the pharmacy equivalent of the free toy that comes with a fast-food children’s meal.

And, talking of meals, a patient who was waiting for a script overheard me making yet another telephone call to a parent to say that their progeny’s gluten-free fresh bread was still sitting on our shelf and would shortly be past its best-before date if not collected soon.

“Did you say bread?” asked the waiting patient. “Is it special bread? Bread that is unobtainable from the normal supermarkets? Is it fortified with prescription-only medication or so prohibitively expensive that the average family cannot afford it?”

The answer to all of the above being no, the patient tried a different tack. “Maybe the recipient of such prescription treatment requires careful monitoring to ensure they do not come to harm from inaccurate dosing or side effects?” Reader, I struggled to give a good response to this simple question.

He watched me as I stacked the bread next to another prescription for 96 cartons of ready-to-feed baby formula, and a carrier bag of skin products including sunscreen, shampoo, hand wash and body oil.

We called the waiting patient’s name and he came to the counter. “Are those my eye drops?” he asked. Eye drops? Do you have a problem with your sight? “I must have,” he replied, “because I thought I had come to a pharmacy but it seems instead I have walked into a Salvation Army soup kitchen.”

As he turned away, I thought again about our “lost” opportunity for a minor ailments service and, if I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely disappointed about losing the opportunity for my entire professional career to be reduced to supervising the drug equivalent of a food bank.


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