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No 'push' for locally commissioned minor ailments schemes

APPG chair Sir Kevin Barron questioned if a minor ailments scheme in every CCG by 2018 is realistic

Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) do not view the government’s plans for locally commissioned minor ailments schemes as "mandatory", regional pharmacy leaders have warned.

There “isn’t a lot of noise” from CCGs to commission a minor ailments service in their areas, Community Pharmacy Cheshire and Wirral CEO Helen Murphy said at an all-party pharmacy group (APPG) evidence session yesterday (February 27).

She was responding to APPG chair Sir Kevin Barron, who questioned whether government plans to encourage every CCG in the country to adopt locally commissioned minor ailments schemes by April 2018, is ever “going to happen”.

Community Pharmacy West Yorkshire CEO Ruth Buchan pointed out there “hasn’t been a push or a drive from NHS England to talk to CCGs” on the subject.

“We've got 10 CCGs in our area, and two have already said they don't want to invest in it next year despite us showing them the cost savings [a minor ailments scheme] could make,” Ms Buchan said.

“There has been no element of integrating a service into the local health system.”

C+D revealed last month that a London CCG is planning to scrap its minor ailments scheme after "very limited uptake" of the service. 

Ring-fenced money

Paula Johnson-Laired, medicine optimisation team for Leeds West CCG, told the evidence session a nationally commissioned minor ailments service would mean money is “ring-fenced”, unlike the proposals for locally commissioned schemes.

“A huge amount of CCG's money is taken up delivering primary care and [supporting] GP practices that are struggling to operate in Leeds now,” Ms Johnson-Laired said.

She also stressed that the process of annual commissioning by each CCG can be a “downfall”.

“If CCGs know there is meant to be a minor ailments service in place, I hope that would result in the commissioning of a long-term service,” she added.

This was echoed by APPG vice-chair Lord Clement-Jones, who criticised the “variability” of the minor ailments service and the amount of funding available locally.

“When it’s a nationally devised service, everything follows,” he added.

Contractors will make "tough decisions"

Jane Devenish, NHS standards pharmacist at Well, argued that although long-term commissioning would help, contractors will still be forced to make “tough decisions” in regards to staffing levels and reimbursement following the funding cuts in England.

“Ring-fencing money for a period of time would enable customers’ behaviour to change,” Ms Devenish added. “Money needs to flow to enable us to take on that [minor ailments] role.”

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