Community Pharmacy Scotland: National evaluation of the Minor Ailment Service

Lee Boag, CPS Funded Research Fellow

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Minor Ailment Service (MAS) has been providing treatment and advice, to those eligible, for self-limiting or uncomplicated conditions for over 15 years. Up to 37% of GP consultations relate to minor ailments each costing more than double a pharmacist consultation.  MAS gives easier access to healthcare and can reduce health inequalities, while allowing community pharmacists to demonstrate their expertise in pharmaceutical care. My background is that of a health psychologist having previously developed complex self-care interventions and working with people with mental health conditions in rehabilitative services. My doctoral research used rigorous methods to understand experiences of those providing care for their relatives and we hope to adopt similar methodologies with this project.  I feel that the shift in ensuring people are able to make the correct care decisions for themselves has placed a high importance on services like MAS.

Existing research is limited in regards to patient experience of MAS with a reliance on simulated patients and feedback from pharmacists and stake-holders. The CPS-MAS project, being run as a collaboration with the University of Strathclyde and Robert Gordon University, aims to determine:

  • patient perceptions of quality of consultation and treatment effectiveness,
  • reasons for using MAS, and
  • quantify the number of GP and other health care service visits avoided.

Patient satisfaction impacts on whether they will choose to use that service again, and also to what extent they will follow treatment provided, both important factors in the effectiveness of MAS. By identifying the reasons why people chose to use the service, future uptake and awareness of the service can be targeted. Quantifying the services patients didn’t use, because MAS was available, will give us information about the health service burden which pharmacists are alleviating.

In short, this project looks to exemplify the efforts that contribute to a key component of community health care through the eyes of those who use it. By enhancing our understanding of how the service is perceived, we can better understand future developments of the service and also evidence the public experience. Every community pharmacy in Scotland will be invited to help us to do this, by handing out just 10 study packs to those who have used MAS and received a medicine.

To get to the stage where the packs are ready to handout to patients I have already completed all the ethical approvals for the NHS and so far over 12,000 envelopes have been prepared with study packs. As the study is national, all 14 health boards must also agree to the research being undertaken in their own region. The questionnaires also contain standardised assessment tools: previously developed and justified measurements, to ensure the answers we get from patients are as a true a representative as possible for what we are investigating. The questionnaires were refined and edited to make sure they were both specific and asked the right questions to exemplify the service.

Patients will complete a simple questionnaire of perceptions of consultation, expectations, reasons for using MAS and overall experience. A follow up questionnaire will ask about the effectiveness of the treatment received to further enhance the evidence alleviation of alternate service use, and demonstrate treatment which would otherwise go unreported.

We would greatly appreciate your support in handing out these study packs so that we can gain the largest national data possible. Patients return all questionnaires to us by post so all we ask is you hand out study packs to those eligible.

The study is currently being piloted for two weeks, with thanks to the Bannerman Pharmacies in Glasgow, to allow us the chance to gain feasibility information and make sure we are set to collect, handle and analyse a great deal of responses. The full study will involve the creation of over 12,500 questionnaires, not including the follow up! When we are set to go live with the full project we will be in touch through CPS and thank you in advance for your support.

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