A service that allows people to have minor ailments treated by a community pharmacist rather than a GP is to be extended in a new pilot scheme launched in Scotland.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has expanded the Minor Ailment Service to all patients registered with a GP in the Inverclyde region, with all 19 of the area's community pharmacies having signed up to the scheme, in order to gain a better overview of its pros and cons.
The Minor Ailment Service allows patients with common conditions to have their symptoms assessed by a local pharmacist and receive advice, referral or treatment. It is currently open to patients under 16, over 60, those with maternity or medical exemptions, and those on lower incomes.
By expanding its availability to all patients, it is hoped that access to appropriate primary care services will be improved, while reinforcing the role of the pharmacy as the first port of call for small health complaints.
However, this trial will go beyond minor ailments, with pharmacists also able to assess and provide treatment for certain common, uncomplicated conditions that normally require a GP prescription, while also promoting and supporting self-care when this is the most appropriate course to take.
Although patients will still be able to make an appointment with their GP if they prefer, it is hoped that the availability of pharmacy services as an alternative will help GPs to spend the bulk of their time on more complex consultations.
Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: "By extending the Minor Ailment Service to all patients in Inverclyde we will be able to test the benefits for patients and service provision generally.
"Importantly, we want to know whether this will reduce the burden on GPs and other local services, if it will deliver and support better and appropriate access to primary care for patients, and how the current service could be further developed nationally."