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Minor ailment scheme return would be a major efficiency saving mechanism - O Neill

9 October, 2008

Sinn Féin Mid Ulster MLA and Deputy Chair of the Assembly Health Committee, Michele O'Neill has urged the Minister of Health, Michael McGimpsey at today's Health Committee meeting at Stormont to ensure that frontline services are not affected by efficiency savings. Furthermore Ms O Neill highlighted that the return of the Minor ailments scheme would be a beneficial cost saving mechanism.

Speaking after the meeting Ms O'Neill said:

"Sinn Féin accept that efficiency savings have to be made within the department. This will lead to a greater amount of money being allocated effectively. However what is crucial is that frontline services such as nurses, home helps and the ambulance servicice to name a few are not affected."

Continuing Ms O'Neill stated that one clear way to save money for the department was the re-establishment of the Minor Ailments scheme.

"The minor ailment scheme ran from 2005 and involved pharmacists dispensing medication for ailments such as colds or flu's. However the scheme has seen 97% of pharmacists withdraw from it over disagreements with the Department of Health.

"It is estimated that the system saved the Department around £8 million per year but if the Pharmaceutical Contractors Committee remove themselves from the scheme then extra cost will be incurred by the department as people will have to go to their doctors for appointments and prescriptions.

"I am urging the Minister to review the talks between the Department of Health and the Pharmaceutical Contractors Committee in order to re-establish this scheme especially given that the scheme itself was particularly successful in tackling need of high social deprivation." ENDS

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