Apparently it all started when a mum went to buy some Calpol at a large pharmacy chain and saw a poster that said if you register your details under the local ‘minor ailments scheme’ all medicines for children are free.
She went on facebook and chatted about what she had seen and her story went viral across the country, prompting lots of similar mums to start asking about this ‘free’ service, including many in Doncaster.
So what’s the real story? Let me start by explaining what these schemes are. Community pharmacy minor ailment schemes are designed to enable people with minor health conditions to access medicines and advice that they would otherwise visit their doctor for.
They allow patients to see their local pharmacist, who is a qualified health professional and source of valuable advice, at a convenient and accessible location close to where they live. The key benefit is that they do not need to book an appointment with their GP.
The aim is to take pressure off GP surgeries and A&E departments by offering advice and over-the-counter medicines. Pharmacies are also very useful as they open at weekends and some stay open late at night when GP surgeries are closed.
In England there is no national minor ailment service but there is a local Doncaster scheme currently available through a limited number of pharmacies that covers health problems for both adults and children.
The schemes only cover certain conditions – such as chicken pox, constipation, sore throat and head lice – and patients will only be offered medicines if they need them for their particular condition. You can find out more at www.doncasterccg.nhs.uk.
Such medicines will only be free if you are exempt from paying for your prescriptions or they are for an ill child.
Importantly, they are not an opportunity to stock up on medicines just in case you may need them in the future.
Also, the pharmacist may not necessarily supply a well-known branded medicine to you, they may offer what’s known as a ‘generic’ medicine, which has exactly the same properties but you may not be so familiar with its name. The key factor is that it will do exactly the same job as the branded one.
We’re currently reviewing the Doncaster minor ailments scheme in order to make sure people can access medicines as intended at the best possible value for the NHS and the tax payer. In the meantime please ask if your local Doncaster pharmacy is participating in the scheme and if so the pharmacist will advise you of the best course of action for your individual circumstances.