What are minor ailments?
Minor ailments are a group of conditions that are not life-threatening but can be unpleasant and affect our day-to-day lives. They include things like colds and flu, coughs and sore throats, diarrhoea and constipation, and skin problems like acne and psoriasis.
Most minor ailments will clear up on their own within a few days or weeks, but there are a number of things a pharmacist in a community pharmacy or primary care setting can do to help relieve the symptoms with appropriate training. This includes offering advice, prescribing medication and referring to an appropriate clinician.
What are minor illnesses?
Minor illnesses are illnesses that are not considered life-threatening. They can range from a common cold to a more serious infection, but most minor illnesses will usually clear up on their own within a week or two. Some of the most common minor illnesses include:
- The common cold
- Sinus infection
- Ear infection
- Stomach virus or diarrhoea
- Urinary tract infection
- Skin rash or infection
- Throat infections
- Chest infections
What is the difference between minor ailments and minor illnesses?
Minor illnesses are a more serious group of conditions that can also be unpleasant and affect our day-to-day lives. They include things like chest infections, ear infections, and stomach bugs.
The main difference between minor illnesses and minor ailments is that minor illnesses are more serious and can sometimes require treatment with antibiotics. However, for the majority of cases, both minor ailments and minor illnesses will clear up on their own within a few days or weeks.
What skills are required to treat minor ailments / minor illnesses?
Pharmacists are required to have a wide range of skills in order to diagnose and treat minor illnesses. These skills include but are not limited to:
- knowledge of the human body and how it works ie., clinical anatomy and physiology
- knowledge of diseases and how they are treated ie., pathology and pathophysiology
- ability to undertake a clinical history
- training to undertake a clinical examination ie., physical examination
- undertake a clinical assessment and interpret the clinical assessment to reach a diagnosis
- understanding of prescription and over-the-counter medications
- ability to read and interpret medical records and offer the appropriate advice
- skill in counselling patients on the use of medication
- ability to work with other healthcare professionals as part of a team
Pharmacists must also be able to counsel patients on the use of medication, as well as answer any questions that they may have. In addition, pharmacists must be familiar with the latest medications and treatments available and be able to advise patients on the most appropriate course of action.
How can a pharmacist train to treat minor illnesses / minor ailments?
Pharmacists are able to train to treat minor illnesses. This is done through a program offered by MEDLRN. The program is called Minor Illness Training for Pharmacists.
The programme covers a range of topics, including:
- How to identify common minor illnesses
- Relevant anatomy, physiology & pathophysiology
- Head to toe clinical examination skills and hands-on practice
- How to provide advice on self-care for these illnesses
- Which treatments are appropriate for minor illnesses
- When to refer patients with minor illnesses to other healthcare professionals
Pharmacists who complete the training are able to provide treatment for a range of minor illnesses, including colds and flu, stomach upset, diarrhoea, constipation, headache, and sore throat. They are also able to provide advice on self-care for these illnesses.
Why should pharmacists consider training in minor illnesses?
Minor illnesses can be a huge drain on the resources of healthcare systems, as well as being a major source of stress for patients. By training pharmacists to recognise and treat these conditions, healthcare systems can reduce pressure on other parts of the system, while patients can get relief from their symptoms more quickly. In addition, pharmacists who are trained in minor illnesses can provide advice and treatment that is tailored to the patients’ specific needs, which can improve the overall quality of care.
How does minor illness training contribute to continued professional development?
Pharmacists are required to continue their professional development in order to maintain their license to practice. This may include taking courses on specific topics, such as minor illnesses. Training on how to treat minor illnesses can be beneficial for pharmacists, as it allows them to provide patients with the best possible care. In addition, pharmacists who are familiar with minor illness treatment can give patients accurate information and advice about self-care.
Pharmacists who are competent in treating minor illnesses can also help to reduce the burden on doctors and other healthcare professionals. When pharmacists are able to treat common conditions such as colds and flu, it frees up time for doctors to focus on more serious cases. This can be especially important during periods of high demand, such as during an influenza pandemic.
Pharmacists who are competent in treating minor illnesses can also play a role in public health. For example, they can provide information about the risks and benefits of over-the-counter medications. They can also help to promote healthy behaviours, such as hand hygiene.
Overall, minor illness training can be beneficial for pharmacists and the general public alike. It allows pharmacists to better care for their patients, and it also helps to improve overall public health.
Can pharmacist independent prescribers treat minor illnesses?
Pharmacist independent prescribers are able to treat minor illnesses in the same way as a doctor. This means that they can prescribe medication and other treatments for conditions such as cradle cap, nappy rash, and chickenpox. Independent prescribers must complete a training course and pass an exam in order to be authorised to prescribe independently. They must also keep up to date with new treatments and developments in their field and undertake regular continued professional development (CPD).
One advantage of pharmacist independent prescribers is that they can often provide treatment more quickly than a doctor can. For example, if a child has a fever, the pharmacist’s independent prescriber can often provide medication to bring the fever down without having to wait for an appointment with the doctor.
However, there are some conditions that pharmacist independent prescribers are may require further training. These include:
- Serious illnesses, such as cancer or heart disease
- Conditions that require surgery
- Mental health conditions
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Children under the age of two years old
How can general practice benefit from a pharmacist trained in minor ailments / minor illnesses?
A pharmacist can provide a minor illness clinic service in general practice. This may be as an independent prescriber or as part of a team. The pharmacist will need to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and have the relevant qualifications.
The minor illness clinic service can offer patients convenient and timely access to clinicians for a range of minor health problems. It can also help to free up GP time, allowing them to focus on more complex cases.
The pharmacist will need to be familiar with the relevant guidance from professional bodies such as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). They will also need to be aware of local protocols and clinical pathways.
The pharmacist may need to provide some training to general practice staff on the use of medicines for minor illnesses. They will also need to be available to offer advice and support to staff and patients as needed.
General practice staff should work with the pharmacist to ensure that patients are directed to the most appropriate service. This may include the general practice, pharmacy or NHS 111. Patients should be made aware of the services available to them and the opening times of the clinic.
What is the difference between a minor ailments course for pharmacists and minor ailments course for prescribers?
There is little difference between a minor ailments course for pharmacists and a minor ailments course for prescribers. The minor ailments course for pharmacists, clinical pharmacists and independent prescribing pharmacists includes training on the safe and effective use of medicines and on clinical assessment and diagnosis of patients with the disease.