The incoming Pharmacy First scheme is an example of the government’s determination to use pharmacists to their ‘full potential’, according to health and social care secretary Victoria Atkins.

Ms Atkins told the House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee this week that ‘pharmacists are very good at hiding their light under a bushel’, but that she would like to use them ‘to the full extent of their licence’.

She said: ‘That is why I was really pleased to launch Pharmacy First a few weeks ago.

‘It’s those sorts of ideas that will not only realise the full potential of our pharmacists but also, importantly, free up to 10,000,000 GP appointments, which means GPs are then able to look at more complex needs,’ she added.

Speaking in praise of pharmacists ahead of the scheduled rollout of Pharmacy First on 31 January 2024, the health secretary told the select committee: ‘These are highly qualified professionals.

‘They’ve spent many years training to be pharmacists and their advice is sought by doctors when it comes to prescribing medicines.’

Despite Ms Atkins’ comments, Andrea Leadsom, the pharmacy minister, recently said there were ’no plans’ at present to expand on the seven common conditions covered by the Pharmacy First scheme.

The seven conditions are: sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.