PHARMACIES should be allowed to do more to tackle the obesity crisis, experts said after they found most people in the UK live within easy walking distance of a chemist.

Even those living in deprived areas have decent access to community pharmacies, a study by Durham University academics has found.

With no need for an appointment and an informal setting, pharmacies are able to support the role of under-pressure GPs, they said.

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Their findings went against the often-quoted "inverse care law" which states good medical facilities are most available to those who need them least.

The study, published in the BMJ Open, calls on local pharmacies to be enabled to do more to tackle major health concerns such as obesity, excess drinking and smoking.

According to the research, almost nine out of 10 people live within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy.

Access in areas of highest deprivation was even greater with almost 100 per cent of households living within walking distance.

Lead author, Dr Adam Todd from Durham University's School of Medicine, Pharmacy and Health, said: "These results show that pharmacies are well-placed in the community to deliver public health services.

"This is particularly important for the poorest areas where more people die from conditions such as smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity compared to people from more affluent areas."