Pharmacies could become ‘one-stop shops’ for healthcare within the next decade under ambitious new plans to alleviate pressure on the NHS.
The Alitam Group — a private firm which runs 140 small pharmacies in the UK and Ireland — wants to transform High Street stores into all-purpose medical hubs.
Patients would be able to book a range of operations, dental care, cosmetic work such as breast enlargements and liposuction — and even give birth in the ‘super pharmacies’.
Eye and blood pressure tests and counselling would also be available on a walk-in basis under the £1billion privately-funded project.
The firm is eyeing up empty retail spaces of shops that were forced to close during the Covid pandemic, including Debenhams, Peacocks and Jessops stores, to build around 500 new hubs.
By 2032, the group says half of its pharmacies should be operational, with midwifery offered in at least five cities including London and Dublin.
Alitam says basic procedures will be provided free-of-charge on the NHS if referred by a GP, with a wider suite of services available to private and walk-in patients.
MailOnline has approached NHS England and the Department of Health to see if they would get involved with the scheme. It’s not clear how the £1bn will be raised.
Feisal Nahaboo, the multimillionaire founder of Alitam, said making pharmacies more convenient will free up more time for hospital and GP surgeries to see the needy.
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 Britons’ ‘one-stop shop’ for health within the next decade — offering a range of healthcare on top of standard prescriptions
The Alitam Group runs 140 small pharmacies in the UK and Ireland. One of those is Temple Pharmacy in Ealing, West London
‘The infrastructure already exists for pharmacies to deliver more primary care services.
‘Their evolution was inevitable in light of the pandemic, which pushed an already-struggling NHS almost to breaking point.’
Sajid Javid hints that controversial ‘no jab, no job’ Covid rule for NHS staff in England is under review
The Health Secretary has suggested that controversial plans to force all NHS staff in England to get jabbed are ‘under review’.
Sajid Javid said that because Omicron is less severe, unvaccinated employees pose less of a threat to patients than when the policy was introduced while the Delta variant was dominant last year.
But he insisted yesterday during an appearance before MPs on the Commons health committee that it was still their ‘professional duty’ to get jabbed.
Mr Javid said 77,000 NHS staffers have not yet had the vaccine, about 5 per cent of the workforce, meaning they could be sacked if they are not vaccinated before the April deadline.
But he noted that the risk of getting severely ill with the virus has reduced since the decision to make jabs mandatory was made.
‘The dominant variant at the time was Delta. The dominant variant now – in fact, almost all cases are Omicron,’ Mr Javid said. ‘I think it is right in light of Omicron that we reflect on all this and keep all Covid policies properly sort of under review.’
There are fears mandatory jabs will exacerbate workforce shortages in the NHS. Hospitals have been told to prepare dismissal proceedings for unvaccinated staff from February 4, the day after workers would need to have a first jab to meet the deadline.
Mr Javid said ‘representations’ had been made to him about Omicron being ‘very different’ to Delta, in that while the former is more transmissible it is ‘intrinsically less severe’.
He said while some people had urged him to add boosters to the mandatory requirement, others have called for it to be scrapped altogether.
He added: ‘We are speeding this natural process up and over the next decade will transform more than 500 High Street premises into state-of-the-art wellness and medical centres offering cosmetic, dental, and ophthalmological procedures, primary care advice and diagnosis, and living aids and medicines all under one roof.
‘This will dramatically reduce footfall at NHS hospitals and GP surgeries, and enable people everywhere to access the healthcare they need far faster and far cheaper than ever before.’
Mr Nahaboo has appointed businessman Sir Ken Olisa OBE, a former Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London and a senior adviser to the Queen, as the company’s chairman.
Mr Nahaboo added: ‘Pharmacies are already providing some GP services, and it is our intention to expand that offering to its fullest potential.
‘We can be the first nation whose healthcare system can operate on a preventative care basis rather than the current remedy care system’.
‘This will improve well-being, reduce deaths and reduce our citizens’ tax liability with less hospitals and less GP surgeries needed to be built.’
Under Alitam’s ‘Pharmacy of the Future’ scheme, up to 5million people could be treated in the custom-built ‘super pharmacies’ every year,
The Group, which only launched in 2020, estimates that the all-purpose stores could slash waiting times, which have soared during the pandemic.
Figures by NHS England show that waiting lists for routine operations have hit a record 6million.
More than 300,000 of them had waited over a year — often in pain — for ops like hip and knee replacements or cataracts surgery.
A further 18,500 had queued for at least two years — seven times more than last summer.
Each of Alitam’s stores will be staffed by nurses, dentists, opticians, midwives, physiologists, and pharmacists.
Where specialist treatment is not possible on-site, it claims it will arrange it with partner service providers nearby for the same cost and wait times.
Following their consultation, pharmacies will electronically update a patient’s records so GPs are kept informed.
Appointment times will be kept to an ‘absolute minimum’ and range from around four weeks for breast enlargement to just a few days for corrective eye surgery.
The Group’s 100 existing pharmacy stores will be retained with many upgraded into super pharmacies, depending on their location and suitability for refurbishment.