Pharmacists sign up patients

Around 39,000 patients in the Forth Valley have signed up to receive health advice from pharmacists rather than GPs.

Dr Andrew Buist

The minor ailments service is part of a new UK-wide contract giving pharmacists a bigger role in health care.

The scheme could make pharmacies even more viable in rural areas, causing further worry for remote dispensing practices, warned Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chairman of the Scottish GPC.

GP reported this month how pharmacies were opening without public consultation in Scotland , threatening practices that rely on income from dispensing.

The minor ailments service is available to patients exempt from prescription charges, who can receive treatment for minor illnesses free of charge.

The pharmacist will assess them, offer advice and, if it is needed, provide certain medicines and treatments at no cost, usually eliminating the need to see a GP.

If necessary, patients will be referred to another health professional or their doctor.

A spokesperson for NHS Forth Valley said it would not be taking patients away from GP practices.

‘Patients will sign up for health advice with a pharmacy but can still register with a GP. It’s mostly for people on benefits with minor ailments, like needing cough medicine.’

Dr Buist said that it was too early to say whether it would adversely affect GP funding but that rural dispensing doctors could be affected.

‘There is a concern it might make pharmacies more viable in rural areas where practices rely on income from dispensing.’

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