Celesio is to roll out healthcare centres in its LloydsPharmacy branches, a scheme project leaders believe will alleviate the pressure on hospitals and acute care and support the delivery of treatments in the community.

The healthcare centres will offer patients specialised medicine collection, nurse-led infusions and injection treatments and testing and screening. Consultants will identify patients who are suitable to be treated in a community pharmacy setting.

Celesio said most of the services will be delivered within LloydsPharmacy stores using additional consultation rooms. For infusion clinics and more complex treatments, it added, “a new space will be constructed to accommodate the service.”

Ruth Poole, speciality director at Celesio UK, said the healthcare centres were an attempt by McKesson, the owners of Celesio, “to get head of the government” in the NHS agenda.

Three contracts have already been signed – in the North East, Midlands and Manchester – and more are expected. The initiative is being funded by manufacturers and Clinical Commissioning Groups.

“Our world is changing, the way we live, our environments, the technology we use, our ageing population. These changes are presenting our health industry with new challenges and we need to be flexible and forward thinking to be able to meet them,” Poole said.

“The NHS is under pressure of financial constraints and increasing patient demand. Some of the issues that are causing this pressure can be avoided or reduced by rethinking how and where care is delivered. That’s where we come in.

“LloydsPharmacy healthcare centres will provide us with an opportunity to ease the strain on our NHS and do the right thing for patients. We are working in partnership with the NHS to identify treatment areas that we can support them to deliver.”

She added: “One of the services that we can provide is an injection treatment for breast cancer. We know it’s important for patients to feel in control and not allow the disease to take over. That’s why the ability to choose between getting care in hospital, in a local pharmacy or at home is really important.

“In our LloydsPharmacy stores, our pharmacy teams can talk to the patient about managing their condition. For example we have skin and pain experts who can offer a range of over-the-counter remedies which can help to alleviate any symptoms they might be experiencing. Our pharmacists can support with any medication queries and concerns.”

Celesio recently announced it would close 190 LloydsPharmacy branches and when asked if the company’s healthcare centre scheme could be jeopardised by further closures, Poole said: “We can’t commit to an answer on whether we’ll close any more branches. We have to respond to funding cuts and pressures so no-one can say for sure.”

Poole said not every LloydsPharmacy branch will take part in the initiative. When asked how many branches will take part she said: “Not every branch will be right for a healthcare centre. I don’t think we know (how many will take part) yet.

“We need to make sure stores have the right capability to deliver it. But where stores are close to each other, it would not make sense for them to do the same thing.”