Patients across Cwm Taf University Health Board area suffering from common ailments can now access free advice and treatment from 75 pharmacies without having to make an appointment with a GP.
The new Common Ailments Service, operating in Cynon and Rhondda, has been extended into 13 pharmacies in Merthyr Tydfil and 21 in Taff Ely.
A common ailment is a condition that will get better in a few days with little or no medical treatment, or requires treatment to prevent it worsening with medicines readily available from a pharmacy without a prescription.
In many cases self-care is the best way to manage common ailments but sometimes NHS advice is needed.
The service allows pharmacists to assess and provide NHS advice and treatment to patients suffering with 26 conditions, including sore throats, thrush, threadworm, hayfever, constipation and indigestion.
Pharmacists will give advice and supply medicines where they are needed, or refer them to a GP or other health professional when necessary. Pharmacists will also help patients to choose self-care for the ailment in future.
Medicines will be given free of charge which can help patients to choose visiting a pharmacist instead of their GP.
The aim is to improve access to services for common ailments, encourage self-care and free GP time to deal with more complex cases.
Dr Stuart Hackwell, based at Morlais Medical Practice in Dowlais, said: “As a GP I welcome the new pharmacy Common Ailments Service.
“It will enable patients to get safe, expert advice from their local pharmacist for common health problems when they need it without any extra cost to themselves. We are really looking forward to strengthening our working relationship with our community pharmacists.”
Pharmacist Mark Griffiths, at Dowlais Pharmacy, said: “The Common Ailments Service is up and running here and we have done quite a few consultations so it’s starting to gain traction with the public.
“I and my team are really excited about it because we feel that our collaboration with other members of the primary care team has gone to another level.
“We can take the burden off GP practices so they can look after more serious illnesses and we can deal with the lesser consultations,” said Mr Griffiths, who is chair of Community Pharmacy Wales, which represents pharmacy contractors across Wales.
Cwm Taf patient Kay English from Treherbert used the service at Sheppards pharmacy at Forest View when she had a problem with dry skin. She obtained a private consultation at the pharmacy in less time than booking a GP appointment.
“The consultation took just a short time but I believe saved me considerable time. Should the problem return, I now know which cream to ask for,” Mrs English said. “I am extremely happy with how I was treated and have recommended the service to family and friends.”
Suzanne Scott-Thomas, Cwm Taf chief pharmacist, said: “The new scheme allows people needing NHS support to manage common ailments to get good advice and, if appropriate, treatment, on the NHS without needing to visit their GP. At a time of increased pressures within healthcare it is very important that we visit our GP practices and hospitals only when necessary.”
Welsh Government figures show up to 18% of a GP’s time can been taken up dealing with patients suffering from common ailments.
The Common Ailment Service is available for the following 26 conditions: acne; athletes foot; acute backache; chickenpox; cold sores; colic; conjunctivitis; constipation; dry skin; diarrhoea; dry eye; haemorrhoids; hay fever; head lice; indigestion/reflux; in growing toenail; intertrigo/ringworm; mouth ulcers; nappy rash; oral thrush; scabies; sore throat; teething; threadworm; vaginal thrush; verruca.
Photograph: Pharmacists Sam Lambe, Mark Griffiths, and Sarah Sullivan.