The Welsh government has launched the trial of its national common ailments service in 32 pharmacies today (October 3), hailing it as "an important step" in promoting the sector's role in the NHS.
The Choose Pharmacy scheme is starting in the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board in north Wales and the Cwm Taf Health Board in the south of the country. The cost of running the trial, including medicine costs and an evaluation of the two sites, is expected to be £370,000, the government told C+D today.
The government told C+D in April that the service could be in pharmacies throughout the country by 2016, following an evaluation of the trial. However, it said today that that the trial would continue until October 2015 rather than April 2014 as originally envisaged.
The evaluation will examine the effectiveness and the design of the service and will involve a financial analysis, a Welsh government spokesperson told C+D.
"The intention is not to expand the service beyond the 32 pharmacies in the pathfinder sites until the completion of the planned service, which will inform the viability of a national rollout," the spokesperson said.
"I firmly believe community pharmacy has an important role to play in promoting the appropriate and responsible use of NHS services" Mark Drakeford, health minister for Wales
More news from Wales
Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford said the scheme would help to establish pharmacy as the first port of call for advice and treatment for common minor ailments, as he launched it at the Co-operative Pharmacy in Hirwaun, south Wales.
"I firmly believe that community pharmacy has an important role to play in promoting the appropriate and responsible use of NHS services and in supporting people to be able to take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing," Mr Drakeford said.
Patients will need to register with a pharmacy to access the service in which pharmacists will provide advice on a range of minor ailments, including constipation, dyspepsia, hay fever, coughs and sore throats. Pharmacists can supply over-the-counter medicines free of charge or refer patients to a GP if necessary.
Each patient will have their own Choose Pharmacy record, developed by NHS Wales Informatics Service, which will enable pharmacists to record and update each consultation. The record will be available to any pharmacist providing the service to ensure patients do not misuse it by visiting multiple pharmacies to stockpile medicines, the government said. In the future, patients' details can be shared with their GP, it added.
Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) chairman Chris James hailed the scheme as a "radical new approach" that would fundamentally change the way patients could access basic NHS services in "an accessible and professional way". Since it was such a major change, it made sense to be introduced as a phased rollout, he said.
Chief pharmaceutical officer Roger Walker said he expected the scheme to reduce demand for GP appointments.
Do you expect Choose Pharmacy to prove an acceptable substitute to GP visits for common ailments?