Public perceptions and experiences of the minor ailment service in community pharmacy in Scotland
Background: The Minor Ailment Service (MAS) in Scottish community pharmacy allows eligible people to gain improved access to care by providing free treatment for self-limiting conditions.
Objective: To determine the perceptions and experiences of individuals using MAS and to quantify the potential impact on usage of other healthcare services.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted of patients accessing MAS across Scotland during June and July 2018. Questionnaire items included reasons for choosing treatment through MAS, which other services they may have accessed had MAS not been available, experiences of consultation, overall satisfaction, and perceived effectiveness of treatment. Those accessing MAS were given a study pack including an information sheet, pre-piloted questionnaire, and pre-paid return envelope. Participants had the option to consent to an optional one-week follow up questionnaire that focused on perceived effectiveness of treatment after seven days and any further access to healthcare services such as general practice, emergency departments or repeat pharmacy visits.
Results: There were 1,121 respondents to the initial questionnaire. Most reported ‘convenient Location’ as the main reason for their access to community pharmacy (n=748; 67.1%). If MAS had not been available, 59% (n=655) of participants reported that they would have accessed general practice for treatment of their minor ailment. Experience of consultations was also rated highly with all ten outcome measures scoring ‘Excellent’ overall. Satisfaction was reported positively with most participants reporting full satisfaction with the overall experience (n=960; 87.2%). At one-week follow up, 327 participants responded, over 85% (n=281) did not require further access to care to treat their minor ailment and 99.7% (n=326) said they would use MAS again.
Conclusions: Positive perceptions and experiences of those using MAS demonstrate a highly regarded service in terms of satisfaction and experience of consultation. The capacity for MAS to impact on the use of higher-cost healthcare services is evidenced through the number of participants who reported these services as a point of access to care should community pharmacy not be available. This national evaluation demonstrates MAS to be a positively experienced service and outlines the factors determining access for treatment of minor ailments.
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