Havering pharmacies are bracing for huge demand for services after the government made plans to allow stores nationwide to prescribe some drugs directly.

The owner of Panchem Pharmacy in Upminster and a locum currently at Shadforths in Hornchurch said more staff were needed for extra services, such as providing antibiotics and birth control pills.

The measures were announced by prime minister Rishi Sunak earlier this week as part of a plan to improve access to primary care.

The move comes amid a nationwide crisis for pharmacies, with the UK reportedly losing 160 in the last two years.

Ohos Ilevbere, owner of Panchem, said: “The problem is funding is very, very poor. Whatever they are going to pay us it is not enough, we are struggling to cope now.

“We are very happy to do more services, but we need a lot more money,” he said.

Ohos said he did not have enough staff to provide these extra services and believed that the government had taken pharmacies for granted.

“We [pharmacists] don’t go on strike and the government has capitalised on that, but if we did there would be complete chaos,” he said.

He explained that patients who were fed up waiting for GP appointments were flocking to pharamcies such as his, and more would do so as the measures take effect.

“Demand is going to be huge,” he said. “Right now it's already a lot as it's so hard to get GP appointments, so most people are trying to come to the pharmacy.”

Avnish Shah, who works as a locum across Havering, said: "All of a sudden we have far more patients and that's a much bigger workload.

"The funding is not going to be enough because there are so many new services that we are going to provide."

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, has allocated £645 million over the next two years for staffing and resources in pharmacies.

In a statement to Parliament, health secretary Steve Barclay said the government's plan would empower GPs and pharmacists and help cut NHS waiting lists.

But Avnish said providing medication for earaches, urinary tract infections and birth control would be costly.

"We can't just give out antibiotics without having people in for consultations and we have to check things, which involves time, and there's no extra money for that," he said.