A SCHEME to enable pharmacies to treat minor ailments without the need for a GP could be rolled out across Cumbria.

A pilot project – the Community Pharmacy Minor Ailment Scheme – is running in the Furness area and, if successful, could become a countywide operation to improve patient access to medication for minor problems.

Dr Geoff Jolliffe, lead GP for Furness with the Cumbria ClinicalCommissioning Group, said: “The idea of this scheme is for eligible patients to have access to a range of basic medicines and helpful advice from their local pharmacist.

“This new way of working will reduce demand for GP appointments and makes the best use of the health resources we have.

“If the pilot project is successful and beneficial to patients, we aim to develop the scheme with all the pharmacies in the Furness area and further afield improving patient access to medical treatment for minor ailments.”

A spokesman for the Cumbria CCG, which has been working in partnership with pharmacies in both Barrow and Millom to launch the pilot, explained that patients who were exempt from paying for their prescrip-tions would be able to access basic medicines for coughs, colds, athlete’s foot, head lice, indigestion and sickness.

In the Furness and Millom area, patients exempt from paying for prescriptions often attend a GP appointment to get a prescription when they could just visit their local pharmacist for over-the-counter medicines instead.

Local data has shown that up to 70 per cent of same day ‘urgent’ appointment requests could be managed by a pharmacy.

The CCG will now monitor the pilot and will be holding regular review meetings with the pharmacies and GPs.

The spokesman added: “Patients will be asked how they find the new service and if the feedback is positive and patient satisfaction rates are high then there is an intention to provide the service through pharmacies in other areas in the future.”

l Meanwhile Cumbria’s Health and Wellbeing Board is seeking the views of the public, pharmacies and other interested organisations about provision of pharmacy services in Cumbria.

Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, Health and Wellbeing Boards are now responsible for developing regular Pharmaceutical Needs Assessments (PNA) for their area. Previously, NHS primary care trusts carried out these assessments, which act as a guide for people wishing to open new pharmacies or dispensaries, or if existing pharmacies wish to expand. The last PNA in Cumbria was in 2011.

Until May 30, the public, pharmacies and all interested parties can help shape Cumbria’s new PNA at www.haveyoursay.org.uk The feedback will help to develop a draft PNA which will be published later this year for a 60-day consultation.