You & Your Health: Minor Ailments

With Andrew Watson of Goodmeasure Pharmacy, Rotherham

Autumn is amongst us which means it’s the start of that season where bugs, viruses and illnesses seem to be on a continuous loop.

The colder weather is thought to suppress your immune system, which is why you’re more likely to get poorly in the autumn and winter months.

Many of these seasonal illnesses are what we class as minor ailments; those where you don’t need to see a doctor as the illness can easily be treated at home with some over-the-counter medicines.

But every year, millions of people go to their GP or A&E with minor health problems that could be sorted at the pharmacy.

To reduce the pressure on primary and urgent care, the NHS has established a community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) where patients can be referred to their local pharmacy for advice and treatment for minor ailments.

For GP surgeries and urgent care centres, it means they can focus on treating people sicker than you.

For patients, it saves them the time and trouble of trying to book a doctor’s appointment; many pharmacies offer a walk-in service and are open longer hours for your convenience.

During the free consultation, your community pharmacist will ask questions about your symptoms, any medication you’re on, and any allergies you have. They will advise on the best treatment for your minor ailment. If the pharmacist thinks you need to see a GP, they’ll refer you urgently.

Also, if you are exempt from prescription charges, you may be able to access free medicines as part of the Minor Ailments Scheme.

Who is exempt from prescription charges:

  • Under 16s
  • 16-18 in full-time education
  • Over 60s
  • Pregnant women or had a baby in last 12 months (MatEx)
  • Veterans in receipt of war pension
  • People on low income (HC2)
  • In receipt of certain tax credits
  • Patients with medical exemption (MedEx) for certain disabilities or long-term conditions

Not all pharmacies offer this service, and your GP surgery must be signed up to it, too. You will also need to provide proof that you don’t usually pay for your prescriptions.

But if your pharmacy does offer the Minor Ailments Scheme, there are many illnesses that it covers.

These include:

  • Mild skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, athlete’s foot
  • Coughs and colds, including blocked nose and sore throat
  • Bruises, sunburn, and minor burns and scalds
  • Constipation and haemorrhoids
  • Hay fever, dry eyes, allergies, bites and stings
  • Aches and pains, including earache, headache, migraine, back pain and toothache
  • Vomiting, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhoea and threadworms
  • Period pain, thrush and cystitis
  • Head lice (nits)
  • Conjunctivitis, cold sores and mouth ulcers
  • Warts and verrucas
  • Nappy rash and teething

Patients who normally pay for prescriptions will be charged the retail price of the medication or the prescription charge – whichever is the cheapest.

Under the CPCS scheme, if you run out of medication supplies you can also receive urgent repeat prescriptions without needing to see your GP. You will need to call NHS 111 who will refer you to the closest pharmacy with that medication in stock. This is helpful for if you run out of medication out of your GP surgery’s opening hours, or if you are elsewhere in the country and need an urgent supply.