There's been a fresh spurt of information around parenting forums this weekend on the NHS Minor Ailments Service, whereby pharmacies will give free medication for minor ailments to free up strain on GPs and A&E. This is not a free for all service, however, and as some have said, isn't an opportunity to 'stock up' your medicine cabinet, but is rather a service for those who need it. If you don't pay for prescriptions you may be able to receive advice and be given a medicine for a range of minor ailments, free of charge, on the NHS, without having to visit your doctor first.
The Minor Ailments Service is available to anyone under the age of 16, or 19 in full time education, over 60's, or if you have a valid maternity exemption certificate, medical exemption certificate, or war pension exemption certificate. You also qualify on certain benefits, including Income Support, Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance, Income-related Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Pension Credit Guarantee Credit or if you have or are entitled to an NHS tax credit exemption.
The pharmacy may be able to help you with skin conditions, such as mild acne and mild eczema, coughs and colds, including nasal congestion and sore throats, minor cuts and bruises, constipation and haemorrhoids (piles), hay fever and allergies, aches and pains, indigestion, diarrhoea and threadworms, period pain and thrush, warts and verrucas, mouth ulcers and cold sores, athlete's foot and nappy rash and teething.
Some pharmacies also provide truss fittings, stoma products and incontinence supplies.
This service is available in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England, though different 'rules' apply to different areas.
For those concerned about the strain this system puts on the NHS, it's a valid concern if it's abused, but you can't just walk in and demand your freebies: you'll still have to have a 'consultation' with the pharmacist, who will give you what you require at their discretion, based on what they believe you need, which should in theory take the strain off GPs and A&E departments a little, which can only be a good thing.
You can search for pharmacies in your area using the NHS Service finder, but check with the pharmacy directly whether they offer the service as not all do.