A £170m reduction in NHS funding could force hundreds of community pharmacies to close down, according to warnings from town hall chiefs.
The Local Government Association (LGA) argues that the closure of local pharmacies would cut off a 'vital lifeline' for elderly and vulnerable people, many whom require life-saving medicines.
In a consultation over proposals to use clinical pharmacists in primary care settings as opposed to local chemists, the LGA said this move would add extra pressure on GP surgeries and hospitals.
It calls on local pharmacies to extend their remit to include other public health services such as health checks, smoking cessation and immunisations.
Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA community wellbeing spokeswoman, said: 'For many elderly people, their local pharmacist is not just a dispenser of medicines, but someone who they know and look to for informal health advice and information. Vulnerable and elderly people should never be forced to travel potentially long distances to pick up vital medicines and receive health advice.
'Community pharmacies do need to change but the cuts in funding could lead to many being forced to close. They should actually play a bigger role in providing public health services, alongside their important existing roles of supplying medicines. Additional investment in community pharmacies could improve the prevention of disease and access to health services. They can also help contribute to thriving high streets.'