The Labour party has promised to create a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service if elected at the next general election.

In its manifesto, published today, the party said the new service would grant more pharmacists independent prescribing rights ‘where clinically appropriate’.

And in efforts to make more care happen outside hospitals, it would ‘trial Neighbourhood Health Centres’ that bring together services like GPs, district nurses, care workers, physiotherapists, palliative care, and mental health specialists ‘under one roof’.

The party also set out plans for preventative public health measures, saying: ‘Prevention will always be better, and cheaper, than a cure.’

If elected, Labour would ‘ensure the next generation can never legally buy cigarettes’, ban vapes from being branded and advertised to appeal to children, and integrate ‘opt-out’ smoking cessation interventions into routine hospital care.

It would also ban the advertising of junk food to children, along with the sale of high-caffeine energy drinks to under-16s.

Labour also promised to ‘prioritise women’s health’ as part of its NHS reforms as we reform the NHS, and ‘tackle the social determinants of health, halving the gap in healthy life expectancy between the richest and poorest regions in England’.

And it would commission a new HIV action plan in England, in pursuit of ending HIV cases by 2030, the manifesto said.

Responding to The Pharmacist’s exclusive analysis of pharmacy closures in England, Labour’s primary care minister Preet Kaur Gill said it was ‘shocking that there are more than 1,200 fewer community pharmacies under the Tories than there were five years ago.

‘Our community pharmacies and pharmacy staff are desperate for a change, and only Labour has a plan to deliver it,’ she added.

And she pledged to ‘reform the NHS, so everyone has access to healthcare when they need it’ – including by further expanding the role of community pharmacy as part of Labour’s Neighbourhood Health Service plans, and ‘cutting unnecessary red tape to ensure pharmacists can work to the top of their license and focus on their expertise in prescribing and medicines management’.

Responding to Labour's manifesto, Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said the negotiator was 'pleased to see a commitment to create a Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service from the Labour Party which would see more pharmacists gain and be able to make use of independent prescribing rights'.

'Expanding independent prescribing recognises the clinical skills of community pharmacists and the potential of the sector to alleviate pressures elsewhere in primary care,' she said.

And she said that references to community pharmacy in the manifestos of the major political parties in England 'shows the strength of the support for the sector'.

'Pharmacies have so much potential to improve healthcare access, but they need the security of a sustainable funding model to continue to deliver high quality primary health services,' Ms Morrison said.

Meanwhile, Paul Rees, chief Executive of the National Pharmacy Association said it was 'good to see Labour taking the transformative role community pharmacies can play seriously' in its manifesto.

'Their plans to create a new Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service is positive and could help to expand the work of pharmacies.

'However, many community pharmacies are faced with intolerable financial pressures, with pharmacies closing at a record rate as well as cutting back their opening hours,' he added.

'If Labour are serious about growing the role of pharmacies, they need to commit to a real terms funding increase. This will allow the network to stabilise and pharmacies to expand the services they can offer their communities.

'Pharmacies are well placed to play a much greater role in treating a wider range of health conditions, tackle health inequalities and improve access to good quality healthcare.'

And the Company Chemists' Association (CCA) welcomed Labour's focus on a 'Neighbourhood Health Service’, prevention and the return of the ‘family doctor’.

'Harnessing community pharmacy is crucial to delivering each of these,' said Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the CCA.

He added: 'We’ve made no secret that while the Pharmacy First service in England is already delivering for patients it has the potential to do so much more. As such, we welcome further detail on the proposal to create a ‘Community Pharmacist Prescribing Service’. Given the current financial pressures facing the sector it goes without saying that any new service must be funded appropriately.

'Independent Prescribing is a generational opportunity for change – we are glad to see the party pledge to grant more independent prescribing rights to pharmacists. This must be underpinned by a robust roadmap to upskill existing pharmacists and ambitious NHS commissioning so the public can benefit from these new prescribing skills.

'The NHS Pharmacy First service shows what the sector is capable of – but it can only continue to do so if the next Government puts an end the austerity of pharmacy funding once and for all,' he said.

In other manifestos published this week, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to 'work towards a fairer and more sustainable long-term funding model for pharmacies' and the Conservatives have set out increased spending plans for Pharmacy First.

And Green MPs will work towards making HIV prevention pill PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) available from community pharmacies, as well as pushing for more funding for smoking cessation, drug and alcohol treatment, sexual health, public health budgets and primary medical care spending.