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Self-Care Medicines Scheme (SCMS)

NCL Wide

This service is coming soon to many pharmacies across all NCL boroughs. This page will be updated with further information once the service is live.

Self-Care Medicines Scheme (SCMS)

From May 2024, people on low incomes who struggle to afford basic medicines will be able to register for the new North Central London Self-Care Medicines Scheme.

The SCMS replaces the Self-Care Pharmacy First pilot scheme. Through the SCMS scheme, community pharmacies can provide eligible patients with selected free medicines for the management of minor health conditions that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

Early treatment of common ailments like allergies, earache or minor injuries can help people get better quickly and prevent a visit to their GP. The list of conditions covered can be found in the patient information leaflet (see Downloads).

GPs or healthcare professionals may signpost patients to the scheme or patients can enquire at their local participating Community Pharmacy whether they meet the criteria.

No formal referral from the GP practice is required. Patients should be registered with a North Central London GP practice. 

Patient eligibility criteria can be found in the downloads. Exemption from prescription charges does not automatically qualify patients for this scheme. 

Contact your borough Medicines Management Team if you require any further information.

Watch the below webinar to find out about the Community Pharmacy Self-Care Medicines Scheme. 

The aim of the service is to provide timely access to supply of medicines for the management of minor conditions. The service is available for socially vulnerable patients in north central London who are unable to purchase over the counter (OTC) medicines due to low income and so are unable to self-care. 

Self-care is recommended as the first-line option as advised in the national guidance on the prescribing of over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. The service will support GPs with the implementation of the NHS England OTC guidance, maximise use of the community pharmacy whilst ensuring that the most deprived sections of the population receive the advice and treatment they require.

The service will be provided by participating community pharmacies in north central London to patients who are registered with a NCL GP practice.

Patients who usually make an appointment to see their GP for minor conditions can instead visit their pharmacy to receive advice and treatment.

The following conditions are included in the service: 

  • Athlete's foot
  • Back pain
  • Constipation (age >12)
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Diarrhoea
  • Dyspepsia and indigestion
  • Earache    
  • Fever/headache
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Hay fever, allergic rhinitis and allergies
  • Head lice
  • Minor injuries
  • Nappy rash
  • Ringworm
  • Scabies
  • Teething
  • Threadworm
  • Vaginal thrush
  • Warts and verrucas

The service should only be offered by the community pharmacy where there is a definite need for a medicine and the patient cannot afford to pay (in line with eligibility criteria). Any medicines supplied by the pharmacy will be from an agreed formulary and free of charge for patients who are eligible to receive free prescriptions in categories relating to income.

The patient must be currently exhibiting symptoms, this service cannot be used for patients who are requesting medicines on a 'just in case' basis.

The consultation with the patient will be carried out by the pharmacist or by a suitably trained member of staff.  The emphasis in the consultation will be on advice and information. Self-care advice may include referring the patient to sources of information to support self-care of a minor illness and may also cover relevant healthy lifestyle advice. 

If the pharmacist feels that the patient is presenting with symptoms that require further investigation and treatment, then the pharmacist will refer the patient to their GP, walk-in centre, or to A&E, depending on the nature and urgency of the condition.

Any medicines supplied by the pharmacy will from an agreed formulary and all consultations with patients will follow current best practice in line with NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries (CKS).

For formulary and conditions, see the SCMS conditions and formulary PDF.

For protocols, follow NICE CKS.

Patients wishing to make use of the service simply need to register for the scheme with the community pharmacy (CP). No referral is required from the GP practice.

Patients are eligible to receive this service if they receive free prescriptions in categories relating to income. An additional category (which is not based on income) is for young people aged 16, 17, or 18 and in full-time education, part-time education or undertaking an accredited apprenticeship.


  • Patients aged under 16 years who have at least one parent who would be eligible for this service  
  • Patients who are receiving Universal Credit and whose income is at a level where they are eligible for free prescriptions. 
  • Patients receiving any other benefits which give them eligibility for free prescriptions:
    • NHS Low Income Scheme and are in possession of a valid HC2 certificate
    • Income Support (IS) or Income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
    • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
    • Tax Credit exemption certificate
    • Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit)
  • Young people aged 16, 17 or 18 years and in full or part-time education or undertaking an accredited level 1 apprenticeship 
  • Homeless and in possession of local authority ‘Letter of homelessness’

Not eligible

  • Age-related categories for <16 and >60
  • Current medical exemption certificate
  • Current maternity exemption certificate
  • Current pre-payment certificates 

The CPE website has a useful list of evidence that can be used to confirm eligibility for the income-based exemptions.

Pharmacists should use their professional discretion to ascertain suitable evidence for young people in part-time education, apprenticeships or for homeless people.

This information is coming soon. Please be patient with us while we finalise the content. 

Review date: Thursday, 01 May 2025