Today’s columnist, Nick Tupper: Review on the way over minor ailments

A pharmacist
A pharmacist

Recently there has been a lot of talk in the news and on social media sites about free NHS Calpol.

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 is 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 they would otherwise visit their doctor for.

They allow patients to see their pharmacist, a qualified health professional and source of valuable advice, at a convenient and accessible location close to where they live.

The key benefit is 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 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 – find out more at Doncaster CCG

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 a ‘generic’ medicine, which has exactly the same properties, but you may not be so familiar with its name – the key factor is it will do the same job as the branded one.

We are reviewing the Doncaster minor ailments scheme in order to ensure people can access medicines as intended at the best value for the NHS and the taxpayer.

In the meantime, ask if your local pharmacy is participating in the scheme and, if so, the pharmacist will advise you of the best course of action for your individual circumstances.

* Nick Tupper. Chairman, Doncaster NHS Clinical Commissioning Board