The government is "scared" of commissioning a national minor ailments service because of its potential cost, Day Lewis chief executive Kirit Patel has claimed.
The government's reluctance to invest in a national version of the service was most likely due to a fear of the NHS taking on the costs of popular over-the-counter medicines, Mr Patel told C+D in an exclusive interview last week (September 24).
"My personal view is they're scared of the drugs budget being blown [on medications like] Benylin and paracetamol that people are buying privately, that would end up being on the NHS," said Mr Patel, who is also vice-chair of pharmacy negotiator PSNC.
Commissioning a large-scale pilot of the service would prove its benefits and "get rid of this fear the NHS treasury has", Mr Patel said. He suggested that LPC consortium Pharmacy London would be an "ideal petri dish" to trial the service because it had already delivered a successful flu vaccination scheme last winter.
"It's proved that local LPCs can work together, it's large enough and close enough to Westminster. I would focus on launching it there and proving it should be rolled out nationally within a year or two," he said.
If the sector did not organise a pilot on this scale then it would be talking about the possibility of a national minor ailments service "for the next 10 years", he stressed.
Having pharmacy services developed separately under different local commissioners had created an unnecessarily complex system, Mr Patel added. Agreeing services at a national level before they were commissioned in each locality would result in "better standards and less confusion", he said.
Last week, PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe told C+D that a national minor ailments service could have a "significant impact" on reducing pressures on GP surgeries and promised to highlight the potential benefits to NHS England and other policy makers.
The same week, C+D reported that the Welsh government's common minor ailments pilot had resulted in pharmacists conducting more than 1,700 consultations in under a year.