The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has called on Rishi Sunak to adopt a ‘Pharmacy First’ approach as he visited to the chemist formerly run by his mother this week.

The Conservative leadership candidate visited the Southampton pharmacy, Bassett Pharmacy, and said he is prepared to reform the NHS and achieve value for money in health spending if he becomes Prime Minister, the NPA said.

However, Mark Lyonette, NPA chief executive, said that if Mr Sunak is ‘serious about NHS reform, he would do well to start with a Pharmacy First approach to prevention and treatment, which has the potential to transform the way people access NHS care'.

He added: ‘That can only happen with a sustained increase in funding for our sector, which is facing much harder times now than it ever did when Mr Sunak’s parents owned a pharmacy years ago.’

In July, the NPA wrote to both Conservative leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, asking them to ‘think radically’ about the role that pharmacies could play in improving access to primary healthcare and address healthcare inequalities.

The letter called on the candidates to implement a Pharmacy First approach, develop an integrated, funded workforce plan for pharmacy and fund community pharmacies to avoid further closures.

The NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service has completed more than three million consultations since launching in 2020.

It offers anyone living in the country the opportunity to visit a pharmacist as their first port of call for minor illnesses, such as urinary tract infections, impetigo and acne.

A national independent prescribing service has already been launched in pharmacies in Wales. as part of widespread changes to the pharmacy contract.

In May, pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield confirmed that the Government was working on creating a similar national pharmacy minor ailments service in England, but this is yet to be confirmed by either of the future leadership candidates.

The first time the Government spoke of a possible Pharmacy First service in England was in October 2021, when the then health and social care secretary wrote a piece for the Daily Mail.

In the article, Sajid Javid said he was ‘asking [his] department to work with the NHS and look at a ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme for England, so pharmacists can provide treatment for specific conditions such as sore throats, without patients having to go to their GP’.