MP: cuts raise GP pressures
SEFTON Central MP Bill Esterson has raised concerns about local pressures on the NHS as the first winter under a new Minor Ailments Service (MAS) scheme approaches.
The MAS, also known as Care at the Chemist, is a service provided by pharmacists to diagnose minor illnesses and prescribe some medicines without the need for the patient to visit a GP.
However, changes to the way pharmacies are paid to deliver the service, which were implemented in April this year, has led to 75% drop in the number of pharmacies which offer it, potentially putting more pressure on doctors’ surgeries.
The MP said Government cuts to funding for CCGs had led to a loss of an important provision, a provision which has been shown to reduce the number of GP appointments that are needed.
Mr Esterson said: “The MAS is a really helpful scheme for the management of illnesses such as colds, flu and hay fever, especially in children and older people.
“It takes pressure off GPs because patients who use the MAS would go to the GP for a prescription instead if the MAS were not available.
“My concern is that due to cuts from central government, the two Sefton CCGs have been forced to cut the fees paid to pharmacists to provide this service and many pharmacies have decided it is just not viable for them to continue to offer it.
“That can only be a negative for patients and GPs and could in effect cost more money than it saves.
“It is bad for the sustainability of our pharmacies and bad for patients.”
Sefton’s Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), a body that represents community pharmacies, said the reduction in the Care at the Chemist service needed highlighting.
Sefton LPC’s Lisa Manning said: “The CCGs significantly changed the Care At The Chemist service making it unviable, leaving only 17 out of 76 pharmacies in Sefton able to deliver the service. We feel that the public will be affected, particularly with winter pressures and the demand on healthcare resources as they have limited access to the service.
“This sets up an inequality in delivery of service and we feel there is a risk they will not travel to access the service but will make extra demands and costs on the local healthcare services available, such as GP appointments and walk-in centres.
“Eight per cent of emergency department consultations involve consultations for minor ailments, costing the NHS £136m annually.
“Treatment of minor ailments accounts for 18-20% of GP workload, incurring a significant cost of around £2bn a year to the NHS.
“A huge 57 million consultations are for minor ailments, resulting in over an hour a day for every GP and 52 million prescriptions.
“A total of 58% of pharmacy minor ailments service patients questioned said they would have made a GP appointment if the service had not been available.’’
Ms Manning added: “Around 80% of all care in the UK is selfcare and NHS England has highlighted the importance of improving the way in which patients use self-care support services to reduce dependency on emergency services.
“We would like the CCG to reconsider their commissioned service in line with the national average remuneration.”
Bill Esterson with pharmacists: fewer can afford to offer minor illness diagnoses, so GPs will be busier