Minister Steve Brine was asked by Labour MP Paula Sherriff yesterday (October 30) what the government is doing to “specifically buck the trend” of decommissioning, and reminded him that “in 2016 ministers committed to encouraging every clinical commissioning group (CCG) to have a minor ailments service”.
In response, Mr Brine said: “Things have moved on…The clock has moved on.”
“Traditional” schemes replaced with “digitally-led” initiatives
England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge, who also attended the all-party pharmacy group (APPG) meeting, said: “My impression is that CCGs are beginning – rightly or wrongly – to decommission minor ailments schemes.”
“I think we’re in a transition phase here from the traditional minor ailments scheme, through to something that is much more digitally-led.”
He pointed to NHS 111 directing patients to community pharmacies as an example of the “digital pathway” aimed at managing minor ailments.
“Blinding us with science”
Ms Sherriff – who is also an APPG member – told C+D after the session that Dr Ridge’s references to digital minor ailments schemes replacing “traditional” versions was an attempt to “blind us with science”.
Sandra Gidley, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society's English pharmacy board, also said she did not “have a clue" what Dr Ridge was referring to.
“How can [decommissioning of minor ailments schemes] possibly be a good thing?” she stressed to C+D after the session.
“When people are sick, there are some that are quite happy to [seek help] digitally, but for a lot of people they need face-to-face contact, and a community pharmacist is the best-placed person to do that.”
“I can't see any hope in what was said [at the APPG meeting] for community pharmacy providing clinical services,” she added.
Ensuring NHS England implements the government commitment for every CCG to commission a minor ailments scheme by 2018 was one of the recommendations in the ‘Murray’ review into pharmacy services – which Dr Ridge revealed in the same meeting NHS England will not be responding to.