Public Consultation on 'Care at the Chemist' Scheme
St Helens CCG has this week launched a 12 week public consultation on the future of the ‘Care at the Chemist’ scheme. The consultation asks if the CCG should:
- Cease the service
- Limit the number of pharmacies who offer the minor ailment service, for example only those pharmacies that are open 100 hours will be able to offer the service.
- Limit the number minor ailments and treatments offered
- Only offer the service to those aged 17 years and under.
The minor ailments service, ‘Care at the Chemist’, was initially commissioned by the former Primary Care Organisation for St Helens residents in 2004. The scheme is available to the public in all but two patient facing pharmacies in St Helens and patients can obtain treatment for 27 minor ailments free of charge if they are eligible for free prescriptions.
Prior to the launch of this scheme, some patients (exempt from prescription charges) booked appointments and consulted GPs for minor ailments so that they were able to obtain treatments free of charge on prescription. The service was set up to divert patients away from the consulting their GP in order to obtain free medicines on prescription.
The current spend on Care at the Chemist is in the region of £200-250k per annum and the CCG regularly reviews its services to ensure that we are providing the most effective treatments and value for money for our population..
The pharmacies accessed most frequently for this service are around Parr, Thatto Heath, Four Acre and the 100 hour pharmacy in the Town Centre and Haydock – both areas of known deprivation.
The ‘Care at the Chemist’ scheme currently costs the CCG £200-250k each year and they want the public’s view on whether they think this is best use of limited NHS resources when over the counter medicines such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can now be purchased very cheaply at supermarkets and other high street stores.
They also want to ensure that people self-care where possible and understand when to get advice from a pharmacist, a GP or another health professional. Over the last 12 months, they have carried out work promoting self-care and will continue to raise awareness of self-care and where patients can access treatment for minor ailments. This will be done as a dedicated campaign and will link into other engagement activities across the borough, linking in with parent groups, seldom heard groups and other local community/third sector and voluntary groups. This campaign will also be shared across social media and allow partners and providers share messages to maximise reach.
NHS St Helens CCG self-care policy has been aligned to national guidance and sets out their approach to ensure that prescribing of certain products in the following circumstances is stopped and to support prescribers in implementing this decision:
• Medicines and treatments available to purchase over-the-counter, used for the treatment of minor, short-term medical conditions.
• Medicines and treatments where there is insufficient evidence of clinical benefit or cost-effectiveness.
• Medicines and treatments that are prescribed to treat conditions where there is no clinical need for treatment.
• Malaria prophylaxis.
The CCG spends over £2 million per year on prescribing medicines and products that are available to buy over the counter without a prescription from community pharmacies and retail outlets such as supermarkets. It is recognised that some of this cost is attributable to long-term or complex conditions. However, removing specific medications from routine prescription for minor, short-term conditions and for conditions, such as a common cold, sore throat or minor cough, which would naturally get better themselves in the majority of patients if untreated, would release money to treat more serious conditions such as heart disease and diabetes and would help maintain financial balance in the health economy.
Consultation and Questionnaire
The CCG will be working with the community, third sector and voluntary groups to ensure everyone across the borough has the opportunity to have their say regarding the future of the service.
There are a number of ways people can give their views
- By visiting www.sthelensccg.nhs.uk to complete the online survey
- By calling 01744 627596 to request a paper copy or completing it over the phone
- By emailing email@example.com
- By attending a planned drop in session
The survey is available on the CCG’s website and will be shared via social media: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Careatthechemist