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Minor injuries unit safe from axe, say health bosses

By local democracy reporter Daniel Mumby, additional reporting by Ben Fenlon

FROME’S minor injuries unit (MIU) will not be replaced by the new GP community pharmacy service, health bosses have promised. 

They have spoken out following the launch of the Somerset GP community pharmacy consultation service (also known as Think Pharmacy), by the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is designed to quickly treat more than 40 minor conditions and injuries, which some feared had been introduced. 

In response to fears that the new service could lead to closures or changes to Somerset’s seven MIUs, including one at Frome Community Hospital, operated by the Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, a spokesman for the CCG said, “The Somerset GP community pharmacy service is a completely separate service, which has been introduced by NHS England and is being rolled out locally in Somerset by the CCG, working with GPs and community pharmacists. 

“It will not affect MIU’s and is not intended to replace them.” 

Somerset has seven MIUs located in Frome, Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Chard, Glastonbury, Minehead and Shepton Mallet, with each facility being open between 8am and 9pm. They provide a range of urgent treatments for patients who cannot secure a GP’s appointment and in doing so relieve pressure on the county’s A&E departments. 

The new pharmacy service is designed to give patients access to a community pharmacist who can diagnose and treat minor conditions, freeing up around 1,000 GP appointments every month in Somerset for those with more serious afflictions. 

Patients who call their GP surgery will be referred to the service, with a same-day appointment being offered either in person or over the phone. 

The minor illnesses or injuries which the service can treat include: eye and ear infections; sore throats; skin infections; sprains; urinary tract infections; common summer conditions such as hay fever, insect bites and skin rashes; ankle, foot, knee, leg or arm strains and aches; coughs and colds; headaches; mouth ulcers and blisters. 

If the pharmacist believes the patient requires further specialist help, they will be referred back to their GP or another health service. 

Dr Jeremy Imms, the CCG’s associate clinical director, said, “This service will be of huge benefit to many of our patients, as lots of minor conditions are more appropriate for a consultation with a community pharmacist, rather than a GP. 

“This will improve access for patients with minor illnesses and will also help us to free up GP appointments for people with more complex health needs; helping ensure everyone gets treated at the right time, by the right healthcare professional. 

“At this time of year, people are beginning to experience seasonal conditions, such as hay fever, insect bites and rashes, and more sporting and other minor injuries from just being outdoors more. 

“Our community pharmacists are highly experienced in diagnosing and treating common complaints, and patients will now the ability to choose to have their consultation with a pharmacy close to home at a convenient time.” 

Michael Lennox, CEO of Community Pharmacy Somerset added, “As well as saving you time, getting support from your community pharmacist frees up appointments for your GP to see more urgent patients. If we think you do need to see a GP, we’ll always advise you to do so.” 

For more information on the community pharmacist consultation service,  visit: 

www.somersetccg.nhs.uk/community-pharmacy

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