NHS Pharmacy First Scotland, a service which will provide advice for minor illnesses, has been launched in all community pharmacies across Scotland today.

The new NHS service will replace the existing minor ailments service, which has been delivered by community pharmacies in the devolved nation since 2006.

The change is intended to make community pharmacies the first point of contact for people with a wide variety of minor health problems and long-term conditions who need medical advice.

The Scottish Government also hopes the service, which is only available to people registered with a GP practice in Scotland, will reduce demands on doctors and A&E services.

The recent move will allow community pharmacies to give people advice and treatment for conditions, such as sore throats, earache, cold sores and urinary tract infections.

Contractors will receive a monthly payment of £1,250 for delivering the service, Rose Marie Parr, the chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland, said in a letter sent to contractors earlier this month.

Martin Green, chairman at Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), said: ‘We believe NHS Pharmacy First Scotland to be a world first and community pharmacy is playing a leading role in supporting patients and the NHS in Scotland.’

He added: ‘Pharmacists, supported by their pharmacy teams, will be able to offer consultations for anyone with minor illnesses and provide the appropriate advice and support. We look forward to community pharmacy demonstrating its value with the Scottish public through this service and developing it further in years to come in line with the needs of the public and the NHS.’

‘Value of pharmacy’

Announcing the new service, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, said: ‘Pharmacy First Scotland is yet another demonstration of the importance and value of the work done by pharmacists across the country. ‘Community pharmacies have been open throughout the pandemic so far, and I know that their staff have worked immensely hard during this whole period.’

She added: ‘The new service being launched today shows their ongoing commitment to the health and wellbeing of people in their community and I am grateful to all of them for their efforts.’

In response to Ms Sturgeon’s announcement, Janice Oman, representation manager at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Scotland, said: ‘We are delighted that the First Minister recognises the role community pharmacies play in helping patients and the wider NHS team by ensuring people get the right care in the right place.

‘This service improves access to NHS care, reduces pressure on GPs and reinforces community pharmacy’s place as a key component of the healthcare system in Scotland.’

‘Rising levels of demand’

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Scotland has also welcomed the new service.

Dr Carey Lunan, chair of RCGP Scotland, said the service was ‘an important step forward’ in ensuring that patients can receive the care they require in the most appropriate setting.

She added: ‘The launch of this service will also help to ensure that the whole of the health service can more effectively manage the rising levels of demand that are being experienced.

‘The recent pandemic has highlighted just how fragile our health service is and as services begin to recover and continue to deal with the lasting impact of Covid-19, I would urge patients to work with us to ensure that we can continue providing care to those who need it most by utilising other excellent healthcare services such as Pharmacy First Scotland when it is appropriate to do so.'