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Written Statement - Establishment of a National Minor Ailments Scheme in Wales

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Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services
This statement advises Assembly Members of my intention to establish a national minor ailments scheme for Wales, delivered by community pharmacies.

The new service will involve the assessment of a patient by an authorised pharmacist and the selection and supply of treatment from a list of medicines (formulary) covering a defined range of disorders. The medicines will be supplied free of charge and individuals, who will have to be registered with the pharmacy, may also receive advice or be referred to their GP or other healthcare professional as appropriate.  

Ailments that can be treated will need to be defined through this new service. However,  they will comprise conditions that can be recognised and treated safely and effectively by community pharmacists and may include head lice, constipation, dyspepsia, hay fever, cough, sore throat and athlete’s foot.  Pharmacists are trained to deal with such ailments and already spend a good proportion of their time advising on the treatment of these conditions.   I will be looking to those community pharmacies who provide this new service to ensure it is available at times that best meet the needs of the population they serve.

The benefits of this service will, I believe, promote self-care and build more capacity and collaboration between our services in the community for the benefit of our citizens.  It will improve access to services for minor ailments and free GP time to deal with more complex cases.  Ultimately, the service will promote a more appropriate use of GP and community pharmacy skills.  I should emphasise whilst we want to encourage people to make full use of their local community pharmacists for minor ailments, they will still be able to attend their GP surgeries if they feel it is necessary.  

The development work will begin in March 2012.  A critical element of the work is the development of the IT infrastructure to support this new service and the wider services provided by community pharmacy.  I am particularly keen to see it also support the sharing of appropriate patient information between hospitals, GPs and community pharmacies for the benefit of the patient.  

We will be asking for expressions of interest from Local Health Boards and aim to have the first services in place within 12 months with phased roll-out beginning later in 2013.  It is a challenging programme of work.  To be successful it needs all of the healthcare community to work across traditional professional boundaries for the benefit of the patient.  I have decided upon this phased approach so we can build evaluation into the process at each stage to help us shape the national service we wish to provide.  I will keep members informed of our progress.