MP: cuts raise GP pres­sures

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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

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