More than £800m could be saved from NHS budgets by making more use of the skills of pharmacists, according to an influential think tank.

The health policy committee of the Bow Group claimed in a report published today that 57 million GP consultations a year involving minor ailments could be dealt with at a pharmacy.

Pharmacy consultations cost on average £17.75, while the average cost of seeing a GP is £32.

The Bow Group calculate that more than 4 per cent of the £20bn efficiency savings could be found by letting pharmacists conduct minor ailment consultations.

The health policy group, which is linked to the Conservative party, also said that pharmacies can support efforts to improve public health through enhanced services for smoking cessation, weight loss and sexual health.

In a foreword to the report, parliamentary all party pharmacy group vice chair Baroness Cumberlege said: “Pharmacists are ideally placed to educate communities and make tangible progress in helping people lead healthier lives.”

The group called on the government to allow pharmacists to make savings through their role as medicines management experts as well as by improving patient outcomes. The paper said that hospital admissions as a result of incorrect medicine use could be costing nearly £200m a year.

This could be reduced through enhanced pharmacy services for the treatment of those with long term health conditions.

The report also recommended that pharmacists should be paid using their own quality and outcomes framework.

It said: “The government should look to develop a truly evidence based, outcomes orientated pharmacy QOF that complements - and where appropriate has confluence with - the existing GP QOF.”