Skills and expertise of community pharmacies should be utilised to clear the NHS backlog as they can alleviate pressures within primary care systems, the Company Chemists Association (CCA) said in a statement.

Pharmacists can help free up GP capacity through the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) and increasing capacity for complex patients and beds through a Discharge Medications Service, it said.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive officer of the CCA said that community pharmacies demonstrated an incredible effort during the Covid-19 pandemic by taking active part in the vaccination programme.

He said: “With access to fair and reasonable funding the sector was able to stand up and deliver 12 million Covid vaccinations to date as well as over 2 million flu vaccinations.

“To support the NHS organisations struggling under the pandemic fall-out, the health and social care system must continue to utilise the potential of community pharmacies going forward.”

While welcoming the Budget announcement to invest in the healthcare system, CCA highlighted the need for investment in the community pharmacy sector.

The association noted that by the end of 2024, funds available to pharmacies will have reduced in real-terms by around 25 per cent since 2014.

In absence of a long-term investment plan for the sector and innovation to build extra capacity, “we are concerned that pharmacy businesses will not be able to deliver the healthcare services that patients have become accustomed to during the Covid-19 pandemic nor will they alleviate pressures from other parts of the health system.”

Recently health secretary Sajid Javid urged all general practitioners in England to make full use of the GP CPCS referrals for minor illnesses “so our brilliant community pharmacists can do more in terms of prescribing”.

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