The service is "held back from realising its full potential" because "only 60% of the population is eligible to use it", CPS chief executive Harry McQuillan said in a statement yesterday (June 5).
Despite the scheme being introduced across all pharmacies in Scotland in 2006, just 17.6% of the population were registered by March 2016, according to NHS National Services Scotland data.
Advertising for the scheme is only permitted using "NHS-approved leaflets and posters" displayed "inside pharmacies and doctors' surgeries", he said. "But beyond that, [its] reach into the public domain is non-existent."
“We can’t even shout about how good the service is to the limited number of people who could access it," Mr McQuillan said.
Individuals eligible for the scheme include under 16s; under 19s in full-time education; over 60s; patients on jobseeker’s allowance; and asylum seekers, according to the NHS National Services Scotland report.
"Equivalent to 115 GPs"
More than two million items were dispensed during 2015-16 through the minor ailments scheme, which accounted for 2.2% of all items dispensed by community pharmacists in Scotland, NHS National Services Scotland said in its report.
Every community pharmacy in Scotland “had patients registered for the service”, it continued, with registrations increasing by "3.6%" from 2014-15.
CPS claimed the scheme's labour was "equivalent to the work of around 115 full-time doctors", assuming the average number of items dispensed per consultation was 1.5 and each consultation saved a GP 10 minutes.
"40% of consultations can be dealt with in a pharmacy"
Mr McQuillan said: “Up to 40% of GP consultations are taken up by non-urgent, or minor, conditions – most of which could be dealt with in a community pharmacy.”
Having pharmacies deal with minor ailments “makes complete sense” as “93% of GPs” believe 10 minutes for a consultation is an “inadequate” amount of time, he added.
A pilot scheme that launched in January across 19 pharmacies in the Inverclyde area expanded the minor ailments service to cover all patients.
Mr McQuillan said the pilot is expected to “take a lot of strain off daytime primary care services and out-of-hours A&E departments”, which will “hopefully be reflected in the evaluation”.