MAS Replacement

You might be wondering what’s been happening with the Minor Ailment Service since the announcement in 2018 that there were plans for an extension and expansion of the service. Although the fine details haven’t yet been agreed with the Scottish Government, what we can say is that what will be launched is a new service altogether, so those of you out there wondering how you will deliver the current MAS service to everyone and anyone can rest assured that it will be a simpler and more streamlined experience helping people access your expert care, advice and treatment!

This article will be part of a new series of newsletter pieces where we share with you our vision, outlining what we know and hope to achieve from the launch of a new service to replace the current Minor Ailment Service from April 2020.

It will look different to the current service

MAS-like activity will be combined with the current Pharmacy First service to create a common clinical conditions service (name not yet confirmed but we hope it’s “Pharmacy First” because this does what it says on the tin!). We’re really pleased to see the two types of consultation merged, as this will help to create a much clearer overall picture that Community Pharmacy is the place to go for non-urgent medical advice.

We see this new service as an opportunity to demonstrate the clinical expertise that we have in Community Pharmacy. As much as this is already demonstrated through your hard work in pharmacies, a huge amount of this does not get captured and reported on. This new service provides the opportunity to really record and demonstrate the efficacy of this service. We should remember that patients who use MAS in its current form, report on it in a very positive way: our Minor Ailment Service report showed that almost 90% of respondents would rate it as 10 out of 10.

The MAS extension will also be completely redesigned in terms of how you record and claim for the service. We do not have the final details confirmed but we hope to shift the narrative and the focus to the unique value of the expert consultations that you provide, rather than on the specific outcome of your interactions – when we talk with our members, we hear that over time perceptions of MAS have become that of “the free medicines service” when really, whether you give advice only, treatment or refer a patient to another health or social care professional these should all hold equal value for the patient and for you as a pharmacy team. Anything that is done in terms of promotion of the service would back this up, so that people accessing the service are not set up with the expectation that they will always walk away with a treatment.

This service will be more straightforward: everyone will be able to access it and we will aim to have a set list of medicines available on the service which will be more consistent across the Health Boards

Imagine not having to worry about which exemption someone has for MAS, and even better – not having to figure out what Universal Credit is and how to explain to patients why they might be eligible one month and not the next! Picture never having that cold sweat running down your neck again as you try not to offend someone by checking whether they are over 60 or pregnant! That’s what we’re aiming for – gathering a few pieces of information at the start of a conversation that allows your system to do a simple CHI check and off you go! Over time, patients will get into the habit of giving you their details before you even have to ask.

We are also aware that in its current form there is no consistent list of medicines which can be dispensed on MAS and that the different Health Board areas have developed formularies which can be quite different from one another. 

We certainly understand the frustration that comes with someone coming into the pharmacy with certain expectations from this service. One of the many positive changes that we expect to see from the extension of the MAS service, is a homogenous service across all Health Boards and a universal White List which will specify which medications can be dispensed as part of this service. We are looking to make sure that anyone can access your expert advice, and a cost-effective treatment if you think it is necessary, but should the patient wish to have a specific product or brand which is not on the white list, the service would require that they purchase this, ending some of the variation we see across Health Boards and between pharmacy teams.

The remuneration for the service will focus on the consultation with the patient

The finance arrangements which will underpin the new service are at an early stage of negotiation, so we have very little to share with you at this point – we aim to run national roadshows and a webinar in early 2020 to bring you the final agreement so keep an eye on your weekly newsletters for details!

We are pleased to say that one principle we are working to is that the remuneration for this service will in part be activity-based, rightly placing the value on your professional consultations with the patient, which means that your clinical expertise and time spent looking after your local communities will be recognised.

The way you record these interactions should also be simplified, but in general this change will mean better recognition for the advice and care you provide, rather than focussing on whether you dispensed any medication or not. We have always said that the huge, beneficial impact that community pharmacy teams have on the NHS by dealing with non-urgent health concerns is likely to be underestimated as so much of your advice and so many of your interactions are not captured – having more of this data will make service evaluation and research so much more straightforward, further cementing the community pharmacy networks’ vital place in primary care in Scotland.

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