Michael Levitan, Hounslow LPC spokesperson and chief executive of the Middlesex Group of LPCs, told C+D last Thursday (June 15) that “too few patients and GPs were aware of the service”, because it was “under-promoted and under-supported”.
"There was very little integration with urgent and emergency care," said Mr Levitan, which led to "massive bewilderment" among patients when they were informed of the scheme.
"It was left to deteriorate and diminish. With a bit more consideration it could [have been] a valuable service."
A reluctance to use pharmacy
The minor ailments service was scrapped across Hounslow's pharmacies from May 1.
When the move was announced in January, Hounslow clinical commissioning group (CCG) said there had been “very limited uptake” of the service since it was locally commissioned in 2011, with “the majority of activity coming from just two pharmacies”.
Mr Levitan said there “seems to be a reluctance to harness” community pharmacy, despite “patients believing it's a clinically safe, quality service” and the proven success of the national pharmacy flu vaccination service last winter.
Minor ailments schemes a “no-brainer”
Minor ailments services continue in “less deprived areas” of London than Hounslow, such as Ealing, Hillingdon and Haringey, Mr Levitan pointed out.
Minor ailments services cost the NHS less than GP surgery visits, Mr Levitan argued, as the average cost of a consultation – including medicine dispensing – is “under £10”. The benefits of the scheme should therefore make supporting it a “no-brainer”.
The problem with the Department of Health's move to place more pharmacists in GP surgeries is it is “likely [patients] will be referred to a community pharmacy to buy a medicine”. “Why not ask them to go to a community pharmacist first, and do the whole thing in one stop?”