Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting told delegates at the Labour party conference today that he wanted to see a ‘greater role’ for community pharmacy in delivering more patient care.

He also called for the government to act now to support the sector, and highlighted concerns that pharmacists were not recognised as highly qualified experts in health care.

The comments came in response to a question from Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), about what the Labour party’s plans for the sector would be in light of pharmacy closures, at a session hosted by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) today.

Mr Streeting said that there was a ‘complete disconnection’ between the government’s ‘laudable ambition’ for a Pharmacy First common ailments service in England, and people's perceptions of what pharmacists can do.

He stressed there must be recognition that ‘the person standing behind the counter isn't just there [because] they're really good at counting pills and putting them in boxes, but actually because they are highly qualified experts in health care and can do actually quite a lot of diagnosis and treatment and prescribing’.

And he added that he wanted to see a ‘greater role for community pharmacy’, noting that this would be ‘great for patients, great for our high streets and great for the poor old GPs’.

Mr Streeting said that he had been visiting community pharmacies and working with national representative bodies to explore ‘how we rescue community pharmacy and stop the slide’.

‘And part of that is trying to get this government to do more with the time they have left before a general election so that we don't inherit an even worse situation than we currently have, should we win the general election,’ Mr Streeting added.

Earlier this year, the shadow health secretary outlined how community pharmacies could play ‘a really big role’ in his vision of ‘neighbourhood’ healthcare.