Licensing new community pharmacy premises should be made ‘as convenient as possible’ for contractors, Conservative MP for South Swindon Sir Robert Buckland has told The Pharmacist.

And the sector must be supported to deliver ‘frontline’ healthcare services like Pharmacy First, he said.

Speaking to The Pharmacist at the recent Fight4Pharmacies event outside parliament, Sir Robert said that he backed the campaign’s calls for more funding for the community pharmacy sector.

‘We've got to make sure that in pursuing a policy of emphasising healthcare through pharmacies that we don't lose or see our network degrade,’ he said.

The Conservative MP for South Swindon added that pharmacy closures were ‘a matter of concern to local residents’.

And while he said that he was ‘always actively working to try and make sure that we can increase pharmacy provision’, he suggested that the process of licensing new premises was ‘often a difficulty’ for prospective contractors and needed to be made ‘as convenient as possible’ to ensure a ‘good distribution’ of pharmacies throughout the community.

‘There's nothing worse than having a pharmacy that's overstretched and under pressure, and I know the staff feel it very much when you've got people queuing up the door, because of the lack of alternative provision,’ he added.

‘I think the government should be congratulated for its Pharmacy First policy, I think that’s absolutely right. And I think that pharmacists can deliver so much healthcare, and do so in a way that means that you don't have to go to the GP or worse still go to an A&E.

‘That's why the pharmacy network is so important and therefore anything we can do to support that frontline seems to me to be the right thing to do,’ Sir Robert said.

The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) reported in October that active dispensing contractors in England were at their lowest level since 2015/16.

And at this week's Fight4Pharmacies event contractors warned that closures are a 'worry' for patients and could 'double' if action is not taken to prevent them.