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Pharmacy mulls free minor ailments scheme

Alchem pharmacy put its multilingual posters in community centres and places of worship

Alchem pharmacy in Slough is considering offering OTC treatments free of charge after its minor ailments campaign was shortlisted for a Health Service Journal award

A Slough pharmacy is considering expanding its industry-recognised awareness campaign aimed at Polish and Asian communities by offering a free minor ailments scheme. 

Alchem Pharmacy's poster campaign, which launched in November 2013 to promote pharmacy as an alternative to A&E for treating minor ailments, made the shortlist for the Health Service Journal's primary care innovation award last month. The posters, which were printed in English, Polish, Punjabi and Urdu, used a "traffic-light system" to inform residents about average A&E waiting times and highlighted that they could visit their GP or pharmacy for treatment instead. 

Alchem pharmacy superintendent Anju Ganger told C+D she had noticed increased footfall from these communities since the campaign was shortlisted, which she thought was due to "word of mouth". The pharmacy team was now considering expanding the ongoing campaign by offering free over-the-counter treatments for minor ailments, Ms Ganger said.

The posters, which were displayed at local places of worship and community centres, included a QR code that allowed patients to connect to the NHS Choices website to find the most appropriate NHS service. "When they know we are open long hours and the services we provide, they are able to let other people in the community know they can go to any pharmacy rather than A&E, which is what they would typically do in their [country of origin]," she said.

The pharmacy also developed a smartphone app that allowed patients to complete a survey about when it was appropriate to visit A&E. Of the pharmacy's 125 patients over half said they would change their behaviour as a result of the pharmacy's campaign and more than four fifths had understood the campaign's message.

Andrew Lane, CEO of the Alchem Healthcare pharmacy chain, said the survey results suggested the NHS could make “significant savings” if more people were made aware of the services offered by their pharmacy.

“We set out to investigate a theory that certain local population groups may use A&E departments instead of their pharmacy for non-urgent conditions. The results suggest the theory was correct,” Mr Lane added. 


Would you offer a minor ailments service free of charge?

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Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

If by "free" they mean to the patient, then I am OK with that. If they mean "provided at a cost to the pharmacy" I am absolutely against it. A minor ailments scheme will save on A&E attendance - thereby saving patients time & the NHS a huge pile of cash; those providing the service must be paid a reasonable amount for doing so I cannot see how anyone can view it differently

Brian Austen, Senior Management

Am I reading this correctly, the actual OTC medicines are free of charge as well as the advice? Sounds the business plan of a mad man if it is so! Is it available to everyone that enters the pharmacy and asks for the service? If not it could possibly result in a discrimination claim. It will become very, very popular with the locals and soon farther afield no doubt. Are they going to choose who can have the service and who cannot if demand rises too high?

Daniel Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

This is how we ended up offering delivery services free of charge, and then filling medication reminder trays free of charge. It's not the route we should be taking. If the NHS sees that we can provide this free, then why should they be paying other pharmacies for it? I can only see this as a publicity stunt.

Pankaj Sodha, Community pharmacist

Every visit to Accident and Emergency costs £114. A visit to local #pharmacy can help reduce this cost! Which pharmacy body is aggressively shouting about all the Pharmacy services.?

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Unfortunately, there are too many organisations "Just Shouting", but on the deaf ears. Take how the GPs do when their demands are not met, only then something will happen.

Rekha Shah, Community pharmacist

Oops - I was referring to the Q re providing a Minor Ailments service (presumably with 'treatments' besides advice) free of charge

Rekha Shah, Community pharmacist

Is this question for real?

Call Me Cycnical, Senior Management

Standards of hygiene would need to improve drastically if this is the direction the high street pharmacy want to go. When was the last time your pharmacy was cleaned and disinfected?

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