Pharmacies could become ‘one-stop shops’ for healthcare over the next decade under ambitious new plans to ease pressure on the NHS.
The Alitam Group – a private firm which operates 140 small pharmacies in the UK and Ireland – wants to convert high street shops into multi-purpose medical centres.
Patients could book a range of operations, dental care, cosmetic work such as breast augmentation and liposuction – and even give birth at ‘super pharmacies’.
Eye and blood pressure tests and counseling would also be available as part of the £1bn privately funded project.
The firm is eyeing empty retail space from stores forced to close during the Covid pandemic, including Debenhams, Peacocks and Jessops, to build around 500 new centres.
The group says half of its pharmacies should be operational by 2032 and midwifery should be offered in at least five cities including London and Dublin.
Alitam says basic procedures will be provided free on the NHS if recommended by a GP, with a wider range of services available to private and outpatients.
MailOnline has contacted NHS England and the Department of Health to see if they would be involved in the scheme. It is not clear how the £1bn will be raised.
Feisal Nahaboo, the multi-millionaire founder of Alitam, said that making pharmacies more convenient would free up more time for hospitals and GP surgeries to see those in need.
He said: “Pharmacies have been at the heart of the community for decades and are ideally placed to provide the public with fast, convenient and affordable healthcare.
The chemist will see you now: High Street pharmacies could become Britain’s ‘one stop shop’ for health within the next decade – offering a range of healthcare beyond standard prescriptions
The Alitam Group operates 140 small pharmacies in the UK and Ireland. One of these is Temple Pharmacy in Ealing, West London
“The infrastructure is already in place for pharmacies to provide more primary care services.
“Their development was inevitable in light of the pandemic, which has pushed the already struggling NHS almost to breaking point.”
Sajid Javid suggests controversial ‘no jab, no work’ Covid rule for NHS staff in England being reviewed
Controversial plans to force all NHS staff in England to be jabbed are “under review”, the health secretary has suggested.
Sajid Javid said that because Omicron is less severe, unvaccinated staff pose less of a threat to patients than when the policy was introduced, while the Delta variant dominated last year.
But yesterday, during an appearance before MPs on the Commons health committee, he insisted it was still their “professional duty” to get stabbed.
Mr Javid said 77,000 NHS staff had not yet had the vaccine, about 5 per cent of the workforce, meaning they could be made redundant if they are not vaccinated before the April deadline.
However, he noted that the risk of serious illness from the virus has decreased since the mandatory jab decision was made.
“Delta was the dominant variant at the time. Now the dominant variant – in fact almost all cases are Omicron,” Mr Javid said. “I think it’s right in light of Omicron that we’re thinking about all of this and keeping all the Covid policies properly under control.”
There are fears that compulsory strikes will worsen NHS workforce shortages. Hospitals have been told to prepare layoff procedures for unvaccinated staff from February 4, the day after workers will have to undergo the first jab to meet the deadline.
Mr Javid said he had been made “statements” that Omicron was “very different” to Delta in that while the former was more portable, it was “intrinsically less serious”.
He said while some people urged him to add boosters to the mandatory requirement, others called for it to be scrapped altogether.
He added: “We are accelerating this natural process and over the next decade will transform more than 500 High Street premises into state-of-the-art wellness and medical centers offering cosmetic, dental and ophthalmology procedures, primary care advice and diagnostics. and life aids and medicines all under one roof.
“This will dramatically reduce the number of people in NHS hospitals and GP surgeries and enable people everywhere to access the healthcare they need much more quickly and much more cheaply than ever before.”
Mr Nahaboo has appointed businessman Sir Ken Olisa OBE, a former Lord Lieutenant of Greater London and senior adviser to the Queen, as chairman of the company.
Mr Nahaboo added: “Pharmacies already provide some GP services and it is our intention to expand this offering to its full potential.
“We can be the first country whose health system can function on the basis of preventive care rather than the current system of curative care”.
“This will improve well-being, reduce deaths and reduce the tax liability of our citizens because fewer hospitals will need to be built and fewer GP surgeries will need to be built.”
As part of Alitam’s “Pharmacy of the Future” program, up to 5 million people could be treated each year in custom-built “super pharmacies”,
The group, which only launched in 2020, estimates that one-stop shops could reduce waiting times, which have soared during the pandemic.
NHS England figures show that waiting lists for routine operations have reached a record 6 million.
More than 300,000 of them waited over a year – often in pain – for operations such as hip and knee replacements or cataract surgery.
Another 18,500 have been waiting in line for at least two years – seven times more than last summer.
Nurses, dentists, opticians, midwives, physiologists and pharmacists will work in every Alitam store.
If on-site specialist treatment is not possible, they claim to arrange it with partner service providers nearby at the same price and waiting times.
After consultation, pharmacies update patient records electronically to keep GPs informed.
Appointment times will be kept to an “absolute minimum” and will range from around four weeks for a breast augmentation to a few days for corrective eye surgery.
The Group’s 100 existing pharmacies will be preserved and many of them will be upgraded to superpharmacies, depending on their location and suitability for renovation.