extension to the MAS and so, when this pilot was announced, RPS was, naturally, ‘delighted’ at the news.

‘This was one of our key asks in our parliamentary manifesto ahead of the elections last year,’ Alex MacKinnon said at the time, ‘and I am delighted to see this pilot getting underway. I look forward to hearing more as it is rolled out and seeing the results of its evaluation.’

Now approaching its third month in operation, SP decided to speak to some of the pharmacists involved in the extended scheme and take a bit of a ‘straw poll’ as to how everyone felt it was going….

The aims of the extended MAS were straightforward. Up until the end of January, patients who attended a community pharmacy with a minor ailment were able to have their symptoms assessed and to receive advice, referral or treatment. Until then, however, it was only open to patients who were under 16 years of age, or were over 60, or were on lower incomes, or who held maternity or medical exemptions.

Obviously the number of patients eligible for MAS varied from community pharmacy to community pharmacy, depending on the demographic of the local area. From the end of January, however, this new extended MAS pilot meant that MAS was open to any patients, who were registered with a GP in the Inverclyde area.

In addition to minor ailments, the pilot also meant that pharmacists could assess and provide treatment for some

of the most common, uncomplicated conditions that generally require a prescription from the GP, so this created an extra, ‘added value’ element to the initiative in not only freeing up GP time, but also in promoting the idea that the individual could self manage and seek self care for such conditions.

Since this pilot was intended to test whether opening up MAS to all patients would improve access to appropriate primary care services and reinforce pharmacy as the ‘first port of call’ for minor ailments, it was perhaps unsurprising that all 19 community pharmacies in the local area signed up to the scheme.

The pilot will test whether opening up the Minor Ailment Service to all patients will improve access to appropriate primary care services and will reinforce pharmacy as the first port of call for minor ailments, says the Scottish government. It will be evaluated as part of a whole systems approach to primary care transformational change within the Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership area.

Patients will still be able to make an appointment with their GP if they prefer. The Scottish Government says the aim of increasing the role of community pharmacies is to reduce the burden on GPs, and other local healthcare services, and allow them to spend more time on more complex consultations.

MARTIN MCDADE, MCDADE PHARMACY, GREENOCK ‘The response that we’ve had to the extended service has been very

enthusiastic. I think the initiative has been well publicised by the local health board, which has certainly made patients more aware of how the scheme works. We’re getting a lot of patients coming into the pharmacy asking specifically about the conditions that are currently covered by the scheme, such as the uncomplicated UTI treatment, which has been quite popular already. The leaflets detailing the scheme have also just been updated so I would imagine that this will bring even more people into the pharmacy. All in all, I would say that it’s proving to be a very worthwhile exercise.’

JOHN MCANERNEY, PETTIGREWS PHARMACY, GOUROCK ‘We’ve already got a lot of patients registered on MAS, but we’re definitely seeing more coming in now that this extended scheme is up and running. I think it’s the fact that we’re easily accessible and that people can simply pop in to see us without having to have an appointment that’s probably making it very popular, although we are getting GPs referring patients to us for things like uncomplicated UTI. We’ve mainly been prescribing items such as antibiotics and trimethoprim. This scheme is giving us, as pharmacists, more opportunity to use our clinical skills in practice, which is great for us and equally good for patients, who don’t have to wait for GP appointments.’

JAMES SEMPLE, INVERKIP PHARMACY, GREENOCK ‘The extended MAS is going down very well with our patients at Inverkip. Those who are now eligible under the extended scheme are very pleased

and are particularly enthusiastic about the broadened formulary, with the treatment of UTIs and shingles attracting particular attention. This extended scheme has also simplified matters for the pharmacist since we no longer need to spend time finding out if a patient is exempt from prescription charges and therefore eligible under the old rules. This saves a lot of time and improves our workflow in the pharmacy. Obviously our workload has increased, but since it’s giving pharmacists the opportunity to provide a more clinically-based service and to prove our value within primary health care, I think it’s well worth it. Clearly long-term funding will be important, but I’m positive that this trial will be rolled out across the country.’

PAUL SPENCE, WEMYSS BAY PHARMACY, WEMYSS BAY ‘To date, we’ve only had one patient who has utilised the extended MAS, but there’s no doubt that our patients are aware of the new scheme. People are being referred, although we did have one patient who was referred to us by their GP practice suffering from a potential chest infection so, in this case, there wasn’t much that I could do other than counsel them and tell them that if the symptoms got any worse they should go back to the GP. I think that the current four conditions covered by the scheme – UTI, impetigo, contraception and shingles – are relatively wide ranging and cover some of the most common conditions that can certainly be dealt with in the pharmacy. All in all, it’s a positive step forward for community pharmacy.’ •


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