The Minor Ailments Service in Northern Ireland is available in your local Community Pharmacy


What is the Minor Ailments Service?


While the Minor Ailments Service might have a fancy name, it really is quite a simple concept.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


Simply put – for lots of minor health ailments – your Community Pharmacist can diagnose your condition, prescribe you with medicine to treat it, and supply you with this. There and then.


What are the benefits of the Minor Ailments Service?


It saves you time and money – you can avoid having to make, wait for, and then travel to an appointment to visit your GP.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


It reduces the stress our Health Service is under by freeing up your doctor’s time, allowing them to focus on patients whose condition is more serious or complex. And it can also reduce the pressure on Acident & Emergency Departments, and Out-of-Hours medical services.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


What conditions are covered by the Minor Ailments Service?


The Minor Ailments Service offers treatment in your local pharmacy for a number of conditions. At present (as of August 2019) these are as follows:


Acne Vulgaris;
Athletes foot;
Groin area infection;
Vaginal Thrush;
Ear Wax;
Mouth Ulcers;
Oral Thrush;


(These conditions and their symptoms are explained in more detail below.)


Your Local Pharmacist


Your local Community Pharmacist will already advise his or her patients on a wide range of health issues. When doing so (if it’s required), they’ll either recommend treatment, or refer the patient on to another healthcare professional - such as their GP.


The Minor Ailments Service makes use of your local Pharmacist’s knowledge and expertise, by enabling them to supply certain treatments if necessary, free of charge to eligible patients.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


How can a patient avail of the Minor Ailments Service?


The Minor Ailments Service has been designed to make it as easy and as convenient as possible for the patient - it's available simply by calling into your local Community Pharmacy.


At Gordons Chemists, you’re able to call in without an appointment. Ask to speak with the pharmacist about the Minor Ailments Service, and you’ll be able to speak with him or her in total confidence about your condition.


Alternatively, if you’re experiencing a minor health concern you should visit your local pharmacy first. The Pharmacist there is a highly qualified healthcare professional, and they’ll be able to give expert advice on your condition. If it qualifies for treatment under the Minor Ailments Service, they’ll advise you of this.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


More information on the conditions that are covered by the Minor Ailments Service:


Acne is a common skin condition that affects most people at some point. It causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that's hot or painful to touch. Acne is very common in teenagers and younger adults, with comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) and pus-filled spots (pustules) affecting the face, shoulders, back and chest.


Athlete’s Foot commonly affects the interdigital space between the toes. This skin infection can possibly spread further to the skin of the plantar surface of the foot or between the other toes. Symptoms include sore and itchy feet (especially between the toes, however the soles can also be affected); a stinging or burning sensation between the toes; thickened skin on the feet; peeling or cracked skin; reddened patches of skin, with white and wet-looking surfaces; blistering skin.


Diarrhoea is an increased frequency, fluidity or volume of the bowel movements with the passage of soft and watery stools (as compared to the person’s normal bowel movements). It often will have a rapid onset, and can be accompanied by nausea & vomiting, abdominal cramps, weakness & fatigue, fever, and headaches.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


Haemorrhoids (sometimes referred to as ‘piles’) are lumps inside and around the anus. They’re usually diagnosed when a patient describes their symptoms, which can include: a perianal itch and/or bright red bleeding*, a mucus discharge after passing a stool, soreness, redness and swelling around the anus, a lump hanging down outside of the anus.   

*this bright red bleeding can often occur with defecation. The bleeding can vary from streaks on the toilet paper to blood dripping into the toilet. Blood is seen on the outside of the stool but is not mixed in with the stool.


Headlice are small, wingless insects that live in human hair. They can be picked up by head-to-head contact. Head lice eggs are brown or white (empty shells) and are attached to the hair.

They can make your head feel itchy, or feel like something is moving in your hair.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


Groin area infections are fungal skin infections which occur in the groin area. A Groin Area Infection is also known as Tinea Cruris, Dhobie Itch or Jock Itch. It is more common in men than women.

Symptoms can include lesions that are red or red/brown. These may be flat, or slightly raised, and can be scaly, circular lesions that are characterised by well-defined edges. Lesions affect the groins and the upper parts of the thighs.

The rash, which is symmetrical, appears clear from the centre and spreads outwards, appearing redder at the edge. Pruritis (itchy skin that you’ll feel an urge to scratch) is often present. The rash is usually bilateral (affecting both sides), and usually spares the penis and scrotum.

Many suffers have coexisting athlete’s foot, which should be treated to help prevent reinfection. Threadworms or pinworms are a small, white, ‘thread-like’ worm between 8 and 13mm long, living in the upper part of the colon. Infection is more common in young children.


Threadworms are often asymptomatic, although common symptoms include an intense itching and scratching in the perianal region - especially at night. This can lead to loss of sleep and irritability.

Severe cases of infection can cause loss of appetite, diarrhoea, weight loss, insomnia, enuresis (the involuntary discharge of urine), and irritability.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


Vaginal Thrush is caused by abnormal colonisation of the vagina by yeast cells (mainly Candida Albicans). Onset of symptoms tends to be rapid, with symptoms including: an itching and soreness of the vulva and the vagina, redness and swelling of the vaginal area, a vaginal discharge, dysuria (painful or difficult urination), and superficial dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse).


Ear Wax is a waxy material that is produced inside the ear. It cleans, lubricates and protects the lining of the ear. It usually falls out of the ear by itself, but sometimes earwax can build up and harden, creating a blockage.

Symptoms of a build-up of Ear Wax include: hearing loss, earache, tinnitus (hearing a noise that hasn’t been caused by an outside source – often described as a ringing, buzzing or humming sound), itchiness, and vertigo (a sensation of dizziness). Some coughs can be due to ear wax, and ear wax can cause a hearing aid to whistle.


Mouth Ulcers are shallow, painful sores which occur on the membrane which lines the inside of the mouth, especially around the cheeks or floor of the mouth. They may occur singly or in clusters.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


Oral Thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth. It is the most common human fungal infection. It is uncommon in people other than infants, denture wearers and the elderly.

It appears as a superficial, white/yellow curdlike substance on the lips, buccal mucosa (the membrane lining the cheeks and floor of the mouth), tongue and/or palate, which can be easily removed to reveal an underlying red base that, is not usually painful. It can cause cracked, red, moist areas on skin at the corners of the mouth.

Oral Thrush may cause a cottony feeling in the mouth and loss of taste. In infants, it can cause restlessness and a decrease in feeding. Under denture plates, it can manifest as erythema (redness of the skin or the lining of the mouth).


What is the Minor Ailments Service


Scabies is a contagious skin condition that is caused by tiny mites, which burrow into the skin. The main symptom of scabies is intense itching that is worse at night. It often starts in the webbing between the fingers.

These tiny mites lay eggs in the skin, and leave a silvery line with a dot at one end. The rash then spreads and leaves tiny red dots.

The entire household, and anyone you’ve been in contact with should seek treatment simultaneously (within a 24 hour period) – whether they’re displaying symptoms or not.


What is the Minor Ailments Service


Verrucae (verrucas) are warts on the soles of your feet or toes. A virus known as HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is responsible for verrucas, and there are many different strains of this virus. Verrucas are usually white. Sometimes a blood vessel can be seen in the centre, which causes them to look like a black dot.


Please note that the list of conditions eligible for treatment under the Minor Ailments Service is accurate as of August 2019; and is subject to change (as directed by the Health & Social Care Board).