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 set to run in the Furness area throughout May and if successful, could become a county-wide operation to improve patient access to medication for minor problems.

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

“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 are aiming 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 are exempt from paying for their prescriptions will be able to access a range of basic medicines for coughs, colds, athlete’s foot, head lice, indigestion and sickness, among other things.

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.”