When buying Calpol in at large pharmacy chain a mum claimed she was told by a member of staff, who said “if you register your details under the ‘minor ailments scheme’, all medicines etc for children are free” and that “They are not allowed to advertise it”.
When the mum posted this on social media it led to a mass increase of visits to the NHS Choices website.
What are the facts? You can’t go into a pharmacy and stock up on Calpol for your children. Pharmacists wouldn’t prescribe Calpol, they would give you the generic, unbranded equivalent, which is cheaper and less of a cost to the NHS.
The “minor ailments scheme” has been around for about 10 years in some pharmacies. It is aimed at people who can’t afford to pay for certain medicines or who can’t access their GP easily.
In general, if you don’t pay for prescriptions, like children under 16 or adults over 60, you will probably receive them free of charge, on the NHS.
The idea is that local pharmacists take some pressure off busy GPs and A&E departments, by offering over-the-counter advice and consultations. This is useful when GP practices are closed, in the evenings and at weekends, when pharmacies are often open. This should enable people to get treatment or advice more quickly and easily. Ailments they may treat include coughs, colds, headaches, hay fever, head lice, eczema and ear ache, amongst others. Plasters are not on the list but dressings for minor burns could be included.
If your child has a temperature, you can visit your local pharmacist for advice. The pharmacist will need to see the child, similar to a GP appointment and will then decide if prescribing a medicine is needed. If pharmacists aren’t sure what they are dealing with or if it is a more serious issue, they will be referred to their GP. Pharmacists are useful for advice on minor health issues.
In Scotland, all community pharmacies run the minor ailments scheme, but in England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is run by the NHS locally, so it won’t be available everywhere.
Other NHS areas may not offer anything for children who have coughs and colds. This doesn’t apply to all minor ailment schemes, because they are not all the same across the country while others only provide the service free to parents who receive low-income related benefits.
Research suggests that if the minor ailment scheme was introduced nationwide, it could save the NHS in around £1 billion. This is because the cost of a consultation with a GP is almost three times more than the cost of a consultation with a pharmacist.
As long as the scheme is not abused and is used responsibly, the NHS could benefit in the long run.
To find out what your local scheme offers, contact your nearest pharmacy.
For more information click the link below.