NHS England is "very unlikely" to agree to a national pharmacy minor ailments scheme for at least another two years, PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe has warned.
There were clear benefits to both patients and the health service but NHS England was only just beginning to map out its primary care strategy, Ms Sharpe told an all-party pharmacy group (APPG) meeting on reducing the use of urgent care services on Tuesday (October 29).
Work on the strategy would take the government "well into next year", Ms Sharpe explained, and NHS England would then have to move around budgets for new services, which was likely to take until 2015.
PSNC is continuing to stress the benefits of a national minor ailments scheme to politicians and commissioners, says chief executive Sue Sharpe
More on minor ailments schemes
Ms Sharpe named the health service's focus on localism as a further challenge. But PSNC was continuing to stress to politicians and commissioners that a consistent, national service would have a better chance of changing patient behaviour and establishing pharmacy as the first port of call for minor conditions, she said.
"By making treatments for common and minor conditions more accessible to patients and supporting them to manage their own conditions, we can reduce their need to use GPs or other urgent care services and, in turn, ease some of the pressure on those services," Ms Sharpe argued.
PSNC was helping LPCs secure locally commissioned services with its template minor ailments business case, she added, and was working with them to gather evidence that supported a national service.
Speakers at the APPG meeting agreed a national service would be the only way to successfully publicise pharmacy as a destination for minor ailments, as opposed to GPs or A&E.
APPG chair Kevin Barron said pharmacy minor ailments services currently meant "different things in different places". "It's about changing culture and not having a national platform clearly holds us back," he argued.
Mr Barron's comments were echoed by Paula Wilkinson, chief pharmacist at Mid Essex CCG, where they have branded the local minor ailments service Healthcare on the High Street. She said the variation in pharmacy offerings must be addressed.
Ms Wilkinson also made the case for pharmacies being able to offer a wider range of medication. "Rather controversially, we've identified four antibiotics we feel it would be useful for pharmacies to be able to give," she told the meeting.
"That would avoid [patients] going to A&E or a GP because we've learned there are quite a few occasions where pharmacists refer them on, only for them to come back for a prescription for exactly the same medicine the pharmacist would have supplied if they had been able to do so," Ms Wilkinson said.
Earlier this month, health regulator Monitor added weight to calls for a national pharmacy minor ailments scheme.
How would your patients and pharmacy benefit from a national minor ailments scheme?