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Community pharmacy

Major NHS policy changes introduced as a result of research conducted at The University of Manchester since 1993 have led to improved access to medicines and pharmacies for millions of people.

Improving patient choice in relation to access to primary care is a key concern for UK healthcare policymakers.

Professors Karen Hassell, Peter Noyce and Darren Ashcroft, Dr Ellen Schafheutle and their team looked at how patients viewed and experienced the care delivered through their community pharmacy (chemist).

The researchers explored with patients how and why they used pharmacies and what prevented them from doing so.

They discovered that exemption from prescription charges and the cost of medicines were major barriers to using community pharmacies.

They designed a study which tested whether pharmacists could substitute for GPs in their treatment of minor ailments and whether patients would thereafter visit their pharmacy as their first port of call, for ailments such as allergies, eye infections and sore throats.

The 'Care@TheChemist' trial ran from 2000 to 2002. Pharmacists were reimbursed when patients, including those exempt from prescription charges, consulted them instead of their GP for specified minor ailments.

The trial resulted in a 38% reduction of GP workload for the 12 minor ailments included in the scheme at the time.

As a result of the findings, the English and Scottish governments introduced national Minor Ailments Schemes (MAS) for patients to sign up to, in order to receive free treatment at their local pharmacy for minor ailments.

By 2011-12 over 3,500 pharmacies in England were delivering the MAS service.

Nearly all the pharmacies in Scotland now deliver this service to over 790,000 people, involving an average of 11,500 daily consultations.

“As a result of the findings, the English and Scottish governments introduced national Minor Ailments Schemes (MAS) for patients to sign up to, in order to receive free treatment at their local pharmacy for minor ailments.”

Karen Hassell / Professor of Social Pharmacy