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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?

Martin MOLYNEUX, Community pharmacist

Why are we so behind Scotland ??? This is an absolute no-brainer. Imagine the added value we could bring to healthcare in our communities if we had the tools to do the job and the leadership that pharmacists have in Scotland



Alasdair Morrison, Product Development

Oh wow, the service will be expanded to include "tourist populations"?

A few years ago I served a Canadian lady who presented with a private prescription for flucloxacillin suspension for her infant son, who had an infection on his private parts. She'd gone to see her mother-in-law's family doctor, and she was extremely displeased about being asked to pay for it. "Can't you charge it under his gran's name?" she demanded. No, I explained, I couldn't, because the medicine was for the patient, not for an arbitrary relative.

So instead of paying for the medicine to treat her young son's ailment, she stormed back across the corridor to the GP, who then came over to ask if it would be appropriate to prescribe fusidic acid cream instead because it would be cheaper.

It occurred to me that it was possibile she'd deliberately postponed seeking medical attention for her son's ailment in her native country, until she arrived in the UK, and that this might be why she was so annoyed at having to pay (when it should have been 'free'). Never mind delaying diagnosis and treatment, with all the potential complications, her son is *entitled* to treatment on the NHS because his granny lives here!

Thomas Wilde, Community pharmacist

No because its free in Canada as well?!? they also have a nationalised health service

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Once again, Scotland showing the way forward, with the Scottish Government putting its money where its mouth is, rather than all that vacuous BS we get from English MPs

Independent Dave, Community pharmacist

Fair play to the Scotts for regularly supporting. Meanwhile in England, a pharmacy was found to make 20p profit on dispensing a pack of citalopram. In punishment, the government responded with a further 100m in cuts, citing “pharmacists and their staff should not be looking to run a business that makes a profit, and instead should be working out of the pure love in their hearts”. PSNC tried to persuade them against it, but ultimately accepted the situation.

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