PHARMACISTS in Wales should be given more freedom in an effort to take pressure off GPs, South Wales East AM Mark Reckless has said.

Addressing health secretary Vaughan Gething, Mr Reckless said: “In their preparations for a possible 'no deal' Brexit, the UK Ministers for the NHS, at least in England, proposed allowing pharmacists to substitute certain drugs for ones with similar effects, where their professional judgment supports that.

“Does the minister agree that, actually, generally, we should be allowing pharmacists greater discretion to deploy their professional judgment to serve their patients, to take pressure off GPs and to ensure cost-effective delivery?”

Replying, Mr Gething said: "There is a challenge here about generic medications being more widely available and used within our whole healthcare system.

"There is then the related, but slightly different, challenge of making best use of the skills of our staff within the system, and pharmacists are absolutely within that domain.

"We've spoken on a number of occasions, in this place and outside, about making better use of the skills that the pharmacists have, not only in terms of assisting their colleagues within primary care, but actually being a port of call for citizens to receive advice and, if necessary, to have prescribed medication.

"So, not just in terms of our preparations for a catastrophic 'no deal' Brexit, but more generally about improving the efficacy and value for money and the experience of health and care, I expect us to make ever-greater use of the skills and expertise that pharmacists have to offer."

Pharmacies are already able to offer advice and over-the-counter medications.