A WORCESTER chemist is backing a new medical report which could lead to pharmacies taking a great deal of pressure off GP surgeries.

A study from Durham University's School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health believes that the role of community pharmacies has changed and they should be allowed to do more to tackle health problems caused by obesity, drinking and smoking.

Adrian Giles, of Kitsons Pharmacy in Broad Street, Worcester, said: "I think pharmacies are an underused resource for promoting healthy lifestyles. We are not an alternative to GP surgeries, but an additional resource; and many people see pharmacy staff as friends, rather than aloof professionals.

"We do already operate a NHS Health Check Service, for people aged 70 to 74, for people who might be at risk from certain conditions, but have not been diagnosed."

The forty minute checks can involve diabetes screening, blood pressure checks and advice.

While the Durham University study praises "ad hoc" health checks, at Kitsons Pharmacy they advise clients to make appointments, because of the length of the checks.

The Durham University study believes pharmacies should be allowed to do even more to tackle the obesity crisis in particular.

Lead author, Dr Adam Todd from Durham University's School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, said: "The role of the community pharmacist has changed significantly in recent years and there is now more focus on delivering public health services, such as promoting healthy lifestyles and modification of health-related behaviours.

"However, these results show that pharmacies are well-placed in the community to deliver public health services."

He added: "This is particularly important for the poorest areas where more people die from conditions such as smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity compared to people from more affluent areas.

"With easy access without patients needing to make an appointment, the results suggest there is potential for community pharmacies to deliver public health interventions to areas which need it most."

The study found that most people in the UK, even and especially in less well off areas, live within easy walking distance of a chemist.

According to the research, almost nine out of 10 people live within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy.

Access in areas of highest deprivation was even greater with almost 100% of households living within walking distance.