The Office of Fair Trading has recommended that regulations controlling entry to the industry should be lifted to allow any registered pharmacy with qualified staff to dispense NHS prescriptions.

The OFT found that at present consumers are paying around £30m a year more than they would in a deregulated market.

OFT director general John Vickers said: “Pharmacies are a vital part of the UK healthcare system. But entry regulations are impeding new sources of supply to the public. These regulations restrict competition and choice for consumers, impose a regulatory burden and limit the ability of businesses to respond to evolving customer demands.

“Liberalisation should benefit consumers, businesses and healthcare provision. So we are recommending deregulation to Government.”

Government is committed to responding to the report within 90 days.