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DH clarifies minister's comments on minor ailments funding

There will be no extra funding for a minor ailments service, despite the pharmacy minister alluding to it in a parliamentary debate this week, C+D has learned.

The Department of Health (DH) confirmed to C+D the day after the debate (October 18) that there would be no additional money for minor ailments – which are already locally commissioned by many clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

NHS England will encourage all CCGs to adopt similar schemes by April 2018, the DH said.

The government first announced its plans to ensure NHS 111 refers patients with minor ailments  such as sore throats and bites – to community pharmacists for advice and medication last week (October 13).

The following day, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) rejected the government's plans to slash pharmacy funding in England by 12% from December 2016.

During Monday’s debate – which was called after Labour MP Michael Dugher tabled an urgent question about the pharmacy budget – Mr Mowat said a minor ailments scheme will be “commissioned right across the country”.

By April 2018, pharmacists will be paid “over and above any money that comes out of the settlement for minor ailments”, the minister said.

“Those are exactly the sort of sensible steps that need to be taken to integrate pharmacy more closely into general practice,” he added.

"Glaring factual inaccuracies"

Following the minister’s remarks, Labour MPs Mr Dugher and Jonathan Ashworth penned an open letter to Mr Mowat calling for him to clarify the “glaring factual inaccuracies” in his parliamentary debate.

In their letter, they suggest that Mr Mowat’s responses to MP questions contained “a number of self-evident errors and statements that were at odds with existing government policy”.

They also claim that Mr Mowat’s comment on the minor ailments service “is at odds with the information released by your department on October 14". 

“You have not previously indicated that you will commission this scheme,” the letter reads. “Will the DH be progressing with this?”

Adding to the workload

In its reaction to the parliamentary debate, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said its proposals for a national minor ailments scheme had been “explicitly rejected by the government”.

The negotiator “fears” that plans to take local minor ailment schemes “to a national level” would add to community pharmacists’ workload, as they “will have to cut services to manage the funding reduction”, it said.

The DH confirmed last week (October 14) that “no final decision” has been made on its proposals to cut 12% from the pharmacy budget. 

Find out what questions Mr Mowat faced on Monday and his responses here

What do you make of David Mowat's response?

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