Monday, November 2, 1998 Published at 14:03 GMT
Physiotherapy could soon be available at chemists
Chemists are likely to start offering customers massage, cholesterol checks and counselling in a bid to survive intense competition from superstores, according to new research.
Retail consultants Verdict has found high street retailers are being forced to revamp their trading strategies as the public is increasingly buying cosmetics, toiletries and over-the-counter medicines from superstores.
The Verdict report notes that superstores' share of the market has risen by 5.9% over the last five years, and that they now command almost as much of the market as the health and beauty specialists.
Verdict predicts: "a store selling herbal remedies alongside conventional drugs and treatments, offering services such as counselling, vaccinations, massage and reflexology, with a beauty centre...is a likely blueprint for the future."
The research found that pharmacies and beauty retailers are being forced to branch out and place greater emphasis on becoming all-round service centres.
They are also increasingly introducing products and services to attract custom from people keen to stay healthy, rather than just from those who are sick.
For example, chemists are increasingly moving towards primary healthcare provision and in-house consultation.
Close link with GPs
The move to offer more treatment consultations is helping to relieve pressure on hard pressed GPs, the report says.
The report forecasts the development of a one-stop shop which caters for the healthy and the sick, which would include a pharmacy, optician and dentist and provide treatments like acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage.
Boots is at the forefront of this, with the company already enjoying strong growth of its opticians business and recently announcing the introduction of in-store dentists.
But the report argues that, despite such changes, there are too many pharmacies, saying fewer would be more commercially viable, and advocates a reduction from the existing 12,236 to 9,000.
GPs should be involved
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, a member of the British Medical Association's GP prescribing sub-committee, welcomed the fact that pharmacists were helping to reduce workload pressures on GPs.
His surgery in Stanmore, Middlesex, had been grateful for an initiative launched by a local pharmacy to teach patients how to use asthma inhalers.
But Dr Nagpaul said: "We need to ensure there is proper development of pharmacy services with all interested parties, including GPs.
"Sometimes patients do not understand the advice given to them by pharmacists, and the GP is asked to pick up the pieces."
Dr Nagpaul also called for tighter regulation of supermarket pharmacy services. He said supermarket patients were not always guaranteed the privacy and expert advice they received in specialist high street pharmacies.