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Scottish government pledges £10m to minor ailments service

The Scottish government has pledged £10m over the next three years to NHS Pharmacy First, a new minor ailments service that will be rolled out from April.

Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman has shown her “commitment to the development of the service” by pledging £10m over the next three years, and recognised it as a “game changer”, Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) board member Kathleen Cowle said in a video on the new service published earlier this week (February 4).

The sum was disclosed to CPS last month as part of its negotiations with the government for the new service, CPS director of operations Matt Barclay told C+D yesterday (February 5).

The NHS Pharmacy First service will see pharmacists offer free advice, treatment or supply of medicines – supported by national patient group directions (PGDs) – to patients presenting with urinary tract infections (UTIs) and impetigo.

CPS is committed to making a minimum contribution of £20.8m to the new service, which with the £5m pledged by the Scottish government in the first year, will bring the total funding for the first year to £25.8m. Over the next three years, the total will increase to £30.8m, Ms Cowle said.

Mr Barclay told C+D yesterday: “We feel this demonstrates our commitment to the service and ensures that money is appropriately redirected to ensure the service reflects what we believe it is worth from the outset,”

The service was initially expected to be rolled out to Scottish pharmacies in April 2019 but was later postponed by Ms Freeman, CPS claimed.

Remuneration not clear

Details of how the funding will be divided over the next three years are yet to be defined, Ms Cowle said.

However, pharmacies will receive a “base payment” for the delivery of the service in its first year. This will be “the same for all pharmacies, so you can have the confidence that every month, you’ll be receiving the same payment for engaging with the service”, she said.

For those pharmacies exceeding a set level of “activity” – which includes delivering a single consultation, a referral or supply of medicine – there is an additional “activity pool payment”.

“That set level is yet to be decided but will be communicated in time, before the service is completely rolled out,” Ms Cowle said.

Replacing MAS

NHS Pharmacy First will replace the current minor ailment service (MAS) – which was introduced across all pharmacies in 2006 – and the different NHS Pharmacy First pilots from April 2020, Scottish chief pharmaceutical officer Rose Marie Parr said in a letter to contractors last month (January 21).

The service is based on a “truly national PGD and service level agreement model” which includes UTIs and impetigo for the launch phase, CPS policy and development pharmacist Adam Osprey said in the CPS video on the NHS Pharmacy First service.

“In time, there’ll be a steady rollout of other PGDs for other conditions including pain relief, sore throat, acne, skin and soft tissue infections,” he added.

Every patient currently registered with a Scottish GP practice or who is an ordinary resident in Scotland – including the homeless and care home patients – will be able to access the service, said Mr Osprey. He added that this criterion will be expanded to include the prison and tourist populations.

What do you make of the Scottish government's pledge?

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