Scotland’s minor ailments service has a lot that’s good about it, says Noel Wicks

Some ideas are just so good that they keep coming around again and again. One such idea is that of an English national minor ailments/common ailments service through pharmacies. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that, with costly A&Es bursting at the seams and long waits for doctors’ appointments, a service such as this is the only logical way forward.

When you think about it, we already have the infrastructure, the capability and the scope to create the capacity for such a service. I’m sure the amount needed to set up the service would be minimal compared to any other recent national initiatives you care to mention. I appreciate that the ongoing costs of providing this would not be inconsiderable, but, in my opinion, and in relation to the alternatives, it surely can’t represent anything other than value for money.

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Although pharmacy needs to focus on healthcare, new ideas might catch the customer’s eye, says Noel Wicks

Is it just me, or has the scope of retail creep reached epidemic proportions? I can now buy a onesie when I fill up my petrol tank, book a restaurant while banking and take out pet insurance as I get my groceries (albeit I have to scan them myself these days). Although the idea of flogging stuff to a captive audience is not a new one, retailers are becoming increasingly diverse in what they offer their customers. In many cases, the products are a natural add-on: why wouldn’t you want a memory card or headphones with your new tablet? However, lately I’ve noticed more companies diversifying to the point of ludicrousness. Perhaps it’s the Christmas factor that’s emphasising this for me.


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Mike Smith puts the world to rights...

The latest statistics for Accident and Emergency admissions in England make miserable reading for anyone whose professional aim is to reduce avoidable use of secondary care. In the year to June 2014, there were more than 18 million A&E attendances, of which only 21 per cent resulted in admission to hospital. Of the remaining majority, 3.7 million (19.8 per cent) resulted in a GP follow-up. But by far the largest group – 7.1 million (38 per cent) – were discharged with no follow-up.

So, where were all the community-based healthcare professionals when those 7.1 million people decided they needed some medical advice?

It’s easy to presume that these consultations are the result of a worried parent woken up in the middle of the night with a feverish child – and of course, some of the time, this will be a correct assumption to make. But, worryingly, research presented at this year’s Pharmacy Show reveals that most A&E visits are made during the day, when pharmacies are open, and that the visits were made by people not just with young children, but also by those aged between 25 and 35 years old. Of those visits, a significant proportion was for minor ailments, including colds and flu, ear infections, cuts, bruises, thrush and cystitis.

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Aspirations to have 24/7 access to health services has begun to hit pharmacy, says Noel Wicks

I don’t know if you have noticed, but over the past few months there has been a significant increase in the number of hospital pharmacy departments looking at moving their pharmacy service to a full seven days a week.

This is quite different from the evening and weekend on-call service that I remember as a pre-reg and newly qualified pharmacist. In those days, my soon-to-be wife was a hospital pharmacist, and many was the time that I accompanied her in the wee hours of the morning to the pharmacy department because the faulty alarm system had gone off again. It often occurred to me during these bleary-eyed visits how strange it was that a department so central to patient care could be so under-utilised and unrecognised.

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Mike Smith puts the world to rights...

One thing from the recent evaluation of the New Medicine Service has really grabbed my attention. According to the report, the pharmacies that recruited most people to the service had a culture of providing services to patients at the core of their business: they showed greater team cohesion and a clear ‘can do’ attitude. This got me wondering how some pharmacies do this better than others.

There’s no doubt that some of the factors affecting delivery of the NMS are outside of a pharmacy team’s control. Staffing and resource issues can be a problem to the small independent, and conflicting business and organisational priorities can be more of an issue for the multiples. Some members of staff find it easier to talk to patients, giving them more chance of identifying the right people. Other pharmacies have closer working relationships with local GPs. I think that success with the NMS boils down to two main things – first, how proactively individual pharmacies adopt the idea, and second, how effectively we can prove that NMS can save the NHS money and enhance patient care.

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