Struggling to get a GP appointment? A pharmacist might be able to help – Philip Galt

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Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) has released a report showing overwhelming public satisfaction with NHS Scotland’s minor ailments service, which provides treatment and advice for self-limiting or uncomplicated conditions, writes Philip Galt

The research, the first of its kind in Scotland, reveals that 87 per cent of people surveyed rated the service as ten out of ten.

Thestudy, a collaboration with Strathclyde and Robert Gordon universities, also found that, if no minor ailments service was available, 59 per cent of those surveyed would have accessed services at a GP.

The figures quoted in this report clearly show that the service provides a vital alternative to unnecessary use of GP appointments for a wide range of uncomplicated medical conditions.

In Scotland, the minor ailments service has been available to children, people aged 60 or over, medical exemption certificate holders and those receiving certain benefits since 2006. And, just last year, plans were announced to expand the service in Scotland to everyone, regardless of age or circumstance.

The service provides convenient access to healthcare in our communities without an appointment and reduces health inequalities, while allowing community pharmacists to demonstrate their expertise in pharmaceutical care.

As one of Scotland’s leading independent pharmacy groups, Lindsay & Gilmour sees first-hand every day just how valuable this resource can be to our patients. At a time when our NHS is under more pressure than ever, we are proud to offer people a reliable and accessible alternative to a GP consultation, 37 per cent of which relate to minor ailments.

We hear from each of our pharmacies across Scotland how the minor ailments service provides immediate access to medication for a wide range of common health conditions such as eczema, a sore throat or hay fever.

At the same time, the service is wholeheartedly welcomed by the GP practices with whom we work so closely as a safe and effective means to free up more consultations for those who require to be seen by a doctor.

Just last year, the chair of the British Medical Association in Scotland described how doctors faced “unprecedented pressure” due to “excessive workloads” and “insufficient resources”.

There is absolutely no doubt that community pharmacies have a unique role to play in contributing to easing the burden on primary care services. Seventy per cent of respondents to the CPS survey rated the care they received from pharmacists as excellent, a ringing endorsement of the dedication to patient care that community pharmacists deliver daily.

These figures give valuable insight in to the benefit provided by this service and essential evidence for protecting and developing the contribution made to the health of the Scottish people by the community pharmacy network.

I am delighted that this research was conducted in such depth and believe that we, as community pharmacists, should be deeply encouraged by the results which bring good news for patients and the NHS in Scotland.

Philip Galt is a National Pharmacy Association board member for Scotland and managing director of Lindsay & Gilmour.