A pharmacy minor ailments scheme in south Derbyshire is set to be scrapped because of NHS England guidance on over-the-counter (OTC) treatments, four Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) have announced.

NHS Southern Derbyshire and NHS Erewash CCGs agreed to stop commissioning Pharmacy First – a scheme set up in 2016 that allows eligible patients to receive free treatment for minor ailments.

The scheme covered 132 community pharmacies and included treatments for minor conditions such as hay fever, sore throat, thrush and head lice. The CCGs will now introduce a Derbyshire-wide self-care policy to support people to self-care instead.

The move to decommission the service comes after NHS England’s guidance, published in April, to stop routinely prescribing on OTC products treating short-term and minor self-limiting illnesses including mouth ulcers, diarrhoea and conjunctivitis, the CCGs explained.


'Regrettable' guidance


The OTC guidance caused concerns among pharmacy organisations. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) expressed concern that patients could be denied treatment if they could not afford to pay, while the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) branded the move ‘regrettable’.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) highlighted that the guidance could result in some minor ailments schemes being decommissioned, although pointed out it could encourage pharmacists to help patients self-care.


Promoting self care


Derbyshire Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) chairman John Sargeant said that around 12,000 thousand people benefitted from the scheme. With one in five GP consultations taken up by minor ailments – 20% of GP workload – ‘this must have helped relieve at least some pressure on local GPs’ time’, he said.

Erewash, Hardwick, North Derbyshire and Southern Derbyshire CCGs said: ‘[Our] policy supports NHS England’s guidance to no longer routinely prescribe medicines, which are available over-the-counter to treat short term and minor self-limiting conditions and advocates supporting patients to improve their understanding about medicines and how to look after themselves better.

‘[Policy] implementation is yet to begin and a timetable will not be confirmed until the CCGs are assured that the resources to support people to self-care are in place.’


Scheme’s impact


On behalf of the four Derbyshire CCGs, Dr Andrew Mott said that supporting people to self-care is a ‘vital part of helping to reduce the pressure’ on general practice, urgent care centres and accident and emergency (A&E).

He continued: ‘We plan to work closely with all our NHS providers across Derbyshire including GP practices, pharmacies, A&E and NHS 111 and other healthcare professionals to ensure the self-care message delivered to patients is consistent.’