Easier access to treatment for common ailments

Wednesday, 7 March 2012
A new scheme designed to provide easy access to advice and treatment for common ailments is to be introduced across Wales.
The national scheme which will involve assessment and supply of treatment will make community pharmacists the first port of call for ailments such as hay fever, warts, head lice, sore throats and indigestion.
Research shows that up to 40% of a GP’s time is taken up dealing with patients suffering from minor ailments. Under the new scheme, patients will be encouraged to consult a pharmacist, rather than their GP, for a defined list of ailments.
The pharmacists will then supply medication from an agreed list, give advice, or refer to the GP if necessary. Medicines will be given free of charge. This removes the payment barrier which can prevent patients choosing to see a pharmacist instead of their GP.
Health Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “A key commitment in our Programme for Government is to make better use of pharmacists to improve access to services. We are also committed to make GP services more accessible, and this scheme will help to meet both of these objectives.
“By visiting pharmacists rather than GPs for minor ailments, patients will not need to make an appointment, but they will still be able to get any necessary medicine without charge. This will free up GP time for dealing with more complex conditions, and may also decrease waiting times for appointments.
“Ultimately, the service will promote a more appropriate use of GP and community pharmacy skills. Of course, people will still be able to attend their GP surgeries if they feel it is necessary.”
Ailments which may be included in the scheme are constipation, indigestion, hayfever, coughs, sore throats, athlete’s foot, thrush, head lice, diarrhoea, warts, verrucas and threadworm. Pharmacists are already trained to deal with such conditions.
The service will be available during normal pharmacy opening hours. This will include being available during the evening and weekends in some areas. We aim to have the first services in place within 12 months with phased roll-out beginning later in 2013.
Individuals joining the scheme will be required to register with their local community pharmacy. It is estimated that within five years of implementation, approximately 500,000 people (15% of the population registered with a GP) would register with pharmacists providing the service. On average 2.1 items would be supplied per patient per year (based on Scottish National Minor Ailments Scheme).
Development work on the scheme will begin immediately, mainly to develop the IT infrastructure to support new services. The Welsh Government will be asking for expressions of interest from LHBs in the coming months and we aim to have the first services in place within 12 months with phased roll-out beginning later in 2013.