Pharmacy leaders have hit back over claims that this week’s strikes by junior doctors will cause minimal disruption for pharmacies.

Junior doctors began four days of industrial action on Monday over pay, and a subsequent statement on the NHS England website stated: ‘Pharmacies and GPs are largely unaffected by the strikes so patients can still get appointments and health advice.’

However, according to some pharmacy leaders, the sector will in fact be ‘under additional pressures’ on strike days and on those that follow.

Meanwhile, NHS Providers director of policy and strategy Miriam Deakin, said this week’s strike will result in ‘disruption on a scale the NHS hasn't seen before from industrial action’.

Ms Deakin described the current situation as ‘all hands on deck’ and added: ‘We're seeing support from GPs, paramedics, pharmacists, community matrons and others playing their part to minimise the risk.’

Thorrun Govind, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, took to social media site Twitter to warn about the impact of the strikes on pharmacy, while also highlighting funding and capacity issues.

Ms Govind wrote: ‘Please remember that your GP teams (many of which include pharmacists) and pharmacy teams are also incredibly busy.

‘They are also underfunded. Please be patient with healthcare teams. We are doing the best we can.’

The NHS England view of minimal disruption also drew criticism from Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, who described the statement as ‘astonishing’.

‘For years, pharmacies have been underfunded and under-resourced because of the poor decisions made by NHS bosses,’ Dr Hannbeck said.

“Our sector is currently fighting for its survival – we have no capacity to step in and help whilst junior doctors are on strike.

‘It is astonishing that NHS England are saying pharmacies are largely unaffected when hundreds of pharmacies have closed their doors for good so far and hundreds more will close their doors by end of this year.’

Meanwhile, Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), added that local pharmacies will be ‘under additional pressure on the strike days and for many days afterwards until the normal equilibrium returns’.

Mr Jones added: ‘GPs will probably need to deal with some urgent care requests normally handled in hospitals and that could in turn drive unmet demand into community pharmacies as people seek convenient advice, reassurance and treatment.

‘Overall, the community pharmacy sector’s ability to be an effective shock-absorber for disruption elsewhere in the health and social care system has been eroded by persistent underfunding, which has created serious capacity challenges in our sector.’