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Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

EN8 Minor Ailment Service

Minor ailments logoTemplate service specification:

EN8 Minor Ailment Service (Microsoft Word Document)

EN8 Minor Ailment Service (PDF Format)

Examples of this service that have been commissioned locally are available on the PSNC online services database.


The PharmOutcomes system can help community pharmacies provide services like this more effectively and make it easier for commissioners to audit and manage services

Should a 21st century health service be about GPs seeing people with coughs and colds?

Groundbreaking new research, into the impact of minor ailments on GP workload, has led the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) and PSNC to join forces in a call for the implementation of a National Minor Ailment Programme.

The survey, commissioned by PAGB and conducted by IMS, reveals that the treatment of minor ailments accounts for 18-20% of GP workload, incurring a significant cost of around £2 billion a year to the NHS. A huge 57 million consultations are for minor ailments (51.4 million of which are for minor ailments alone), resulting in over an hour a day for every GP and 52 million prescriptions.

This evidence supports the belief held by PAGB and PSNC that it is now time for a National Minor Ailment Programme where:

- The pharmacist is seen as an integral part of the NHS service
- The pharmacy is the first port of call for all cases of minor ailments
- Responsible self care and self-medication is supported and encouraged
- Reassurance and advice or referral to another part of the NHS is available, when the pharmacist considers it appropriate
- There is a supply of treatments on the NHS for people who are exempt from the prescription charge
- National, regional and local communications by government, PCTs, pharmacies, the voluntary sector and the OTC industry support the programme, with consistent messages.
- There is support from all health professionals, including GPs
- People are recruited into self care through the use of tools in general practice, such as a ‘self care prescription'

The benefits of such a programme are enormous and would include a reduction in cost for the already over-burdened NHS, increased capacity for GPs of at least an hour a day, and for the patient, improved access to advice, support and treatment.

Sheila Kelly, PAGB Executive Director, commented:
"A 21st century NHS will need to be used by people who can both behave independently and know when an NHS intervention is most effective. Is it one that deals with coughs and colds, or is it one that deals with the more complex needs of a modern population? It must now be time to consider a shift in behaviour from GP to self care and pharmacy as the first point of call for minor ailments."

Sue Sharpe, PSNC Chief Executive Officer, added:
"A minor ailments programme can release significant capacity in the GP surgery and build capacity in the pharmacy. It is a great opportunity to use the skills of the pharmacy team to develop the public's understanding of healthy behaviours and confidence in managing health problems, and to ensure that health needs are met in the most cost-effective way."

Background information
PAGB and PSNC have joined forces on the issue of minor ailment management as they have a shared belief that the time is now right for the implementation of a National Minor Ailment Programme.

Every year, costs increase for the NHS and it becomes ever more overstretched. Rising levels of obesity, and associated diseases, puts immense demands on NHS resources, and there are projections that these demands will become overwhelming. The access that pharmacy provides to the whole population, rather than just those that are ill, is a real asset that the NHS should continue to capitalise on.

The government recognises these challenges and is aiming for wider reform to transform the NHS into a 21st century healthcare service. In his speech on the National Health Service (7 January 2008), Gordon Brown said:

"The NHS of the future will be one of patient power, patients engaged and taking greater control over their own health and their healthcare too" and that:

"Growing expectations about choice, access, and convenience in healthcare are a fact of modern life."

The National Minor Ailment Programme would fit this vision.

In the 60th anniversary year of the NHS, Lord Darzi's NHS Review document is set to be published (in June 2008) which will set us on the path to the next stage of the NHS's transformation. When the review was announced, the Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, called this

"a once in a generation opportunity to ensure that a properly resourced NHS is clinically led, patient-centred and locally accountable."

One of the review's objectives is to ensure that there is more accessible and convenient care integrated across primary and secondary providers, reflecting best value for money and offering services in the most appropriate settings for patients. For this to be successful, primary care needs to release capacity and commissioning should complement this and the campaign does that.

The recent consultation on the Pharmacy White Paper has also provided PAGB and PSNC with an excellent opportunity to propose such a programme and promote the benefits of building capacity in pharmacy. A joint submission has been made by PAGB and PSNC, which calls for a National Minor Ailment Programme to be included in the White Paper. A copy of the submission can be downloaded by clicking here.