Review Key Findings
- Although community pharmacies have increased distribution of Healthy Start Vitamins since the start of the national trial scheme, uptake in Scotland continues to be low.
- Both NHS health professionals and community pharmacies identified barriers with the distribution of Healthy Start Vitamins including challenges with existing systems and structures for distribution, stock availability and systems for reclaiming cost.
- Wider influence of women's awareness, understanding and use of Healthy Start vitamin coupons contributes to low uptake.
- To increase uptake of vitamins and drops a number of barriers need to be overcome, though community pharmacies may be part of the solution.
The Healthy Start Scheme is a UK initiative available to pregnant women and families who are receiving benefits or tax credits or for pregnant women aged 18 or under. Once accepted onto the scheme, Healthy Start coupons for vitamins and drops are sent to women at regular intervals of 8 weeks between pregnancy and for children from birth until their child turns 4 years old.
In April 2013 community pharmacies in Scotland were invited to take part in a national trial scheme to distribute Healthy Start Vitamins to improve uptake. Families who are eligible for the scheme could take their coupons into participating community pharmacies and exchange them for either Healthy Start vitamins for themselves and/or drops for their child.
The national trial operated in community pharmacies within many NHS Health Boards. In some NHS Boards distribution happened solely through community pharmacies, in others distribution could be through community pharmacies and existing NHS services. The trial scheme ran for two years and was due to complete in May 2015.
A review of the distribution of Healthy Start vitamins was undertaken by the Scottish Government between December 2014 and March 2015 and will inform further plans for distribution.
Email: Douglas Armstrong