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LPC says minor ailments scheme was ‘left to deteriorate’

Hounslow LPC: Supporting the minor ailments service should be a “no-brainer”
Hounslow LPC: Supporting the minor ailments service should be a “no-brainer”

A minor ailments service which was removed from pharmacies across Hounslow, London last month had been "left to deteriorate", a local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) has said.

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?”

Do you know of any community pharmacy services under threat?

Taranpreet Mundae, Locum pharmacist

Judging by some of my local surgeries, the practice staff are poorly trained on the service. I've had countless calls where I've had to train or clarify certain issues of the scheme. This has helped improve uptake of the service from the surgeries

The surgery staff need to be better trained and informed to maximise the benefits of the service i.e free up gp appointments for those who are in greater need. Majority of patients see the gp as their first port of call. The practice staff have to do better to filter those that can use the service and those whom genuinely need to see the gp. 

I do provide information and leaflets in my pharmacy to promote the service and how it works but to ensure greater success the surgeries need to do a better job promoting the service when it can be most beneficial. 

Brian Austen, Senior Management

Playing 'Devils Advocate', before the MAS was scrapped, how many pharmacies advertised the service? Pharmacies need to do more to help themselves.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

“Why not ask them to go to a community pharmacist first, and do the whole thing in one stop?”

because that takes GPs out of the loop (even if they only see a p'cist at the surgery) and GPs cant let go of anything no matter how overpaid, sorry overworked they are...

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