Pharmacists carrying out their professional role cannot be described as ‘strike-breaking’, RPS president Claire Anderson has said, adding that the sector needs more funding to help ease pressure on the NHS.

In a letter to The Telegraph this weekend, Professor Anderson responded to the newspaper’s report that pharmacists could be drafted in to provide cover for striking NHS workers by diagnosing patients with minor conditions and prescribing antibiotics.

She emphasised the clinical role that pharmacists already play, saying that proposals for pharmacists to prescribe medications was ‘not entirely new’ and adding that many pharmacists have been providing prescribing services for many years.

Ms Anderson described changes that mean that all pharmacists will be prescribers at the point of registration from 2026 as a ‘sea-change in the way all pharmacists will be able to care for patients’.

‘The role of the pharmacist is not the same as that of a doctor or a nurse’, she added, saying that ‘it is hard to see how a pharmacist carrying out their professional role could be described as “strike-breaking”’.

However, Professor Anderson added: ‘If the Government wants all community pharmacy teams to help ease winter pressures through a new core service, it must provide the funding and workforce plan for it to be delivered’, highlighting the ‘severe pressure’ that community pharmacy teams are already under.

This follows warnings from other sector leaders that the community pharmacy sector is already overstretched and cannot provide additional services without extra funding

Speaking in Parliament last week, NPA chair Andrew Lane said: ‘I don’t believe we are in a position to strike bust’, while Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said: ‘We can't do anything, and we won't be able to do anything without more funding.'

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said: ‘Pharmacy teams are in the same position as their health service colleagues – exhausted, overworked, and struggling to make ends meet.  If Government wants pharmacies to step up again, they will need to back this with emergency funding and support.’

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, added that ‘pharmacies cannot ride to the rescue for free’.