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Boots ‘appalled’ by Deliveroo OTC incident, as lawyers warn of consequences

Boots has vowed to investigate after a video of a Deliveroo driver handing a patient an open bag of medicine and mocking her for its contents was shared on social media. Meanwhile, lawyers have warned pharmacies of learnings from the incident.

In a video shared on Twitter, a Deliveroo driver is seen handing a woman an open paper bag from Boots, which contains the thrush treatment Canesten, and mocking the patient before handing the product over.


Boots told C+D today (June 30) that it is “appalled to learn of this incident”.

“All Boots orders through Deliveroo should be securely sealed shut to ensure the contents remain secure and private,” it added.

“We are working with Deliveroo to investigate what happened on this occasion and to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

A spokesperson for Deliveroo confirmed to C+D that it “will no longer work with this rider” following the incident.

Deliveroo has approached the customer to apologise and is working with social media platforms to “request the video is taken down”, criticising the driver’s behaviour as “completely unacceptable”, the spokesperson added.


Read more: Boots makes nearly 100 OTC medicines available on Deliveroo in pilot partnership


Boots began its partnership with Deliveroo in August 2021, as a pilot launch across 14 branches in England.

The multiple confirmed to C+D today that the service is still in its pilot phase and stressed that only over-the-counter (OTC) products are available for delivery via Deliveroo.


Particulars of incident unclear


The product exposed in the video is Canesten Thrush Combi, which is classified as a general sales list (GSL) item.

Andrea James, a professional discipline and healthcare regulatory lawyer at Brabners LLP, said it is “unfortunate, from the pharmacy’s perspective, that the patient purchased it from a pharmacy rather than a shop, because the pharmacy is of course a regulated entity and subject to much more stringent General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) requirements than would apply to a mere shop”.

“The GPhC’s position is that maintaining confidentiality is a ‘vital’ part of the relationship between patients and pharmacy professionals and that, when pharmacy professionals do not handle confidential information appropriately, it can damage public trust and confidence in the professions. That would be capable of amounting to a fitness-to-practise issue,” she added.

Pharmacies providing services at a distance should also “assess the suitability of packaging”, according to a GPhC requirement, Ms James said.

“It is arguably not in keeping with that requirement to simply place an unwrapped medicine in an open bag – if that is what happened here. We don’t know the extent to which the Deliveroo rider may have interfered with the package originally handed to him,” Ms James stressed.  


Reputational damage and risk of sanctions


Eleanore Beard, specialist data lawyer with Brabners LLP, added: “Boots and Deliveroo both need to look at their data privacy frameworks and the data sharing agreements they have with providers to ensure the ongoing protection of their patients/customers’ personal data.

“Incidents like this reflect badly upon companies, it leaves you open to reputational damage, and even possible sanctions or fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office,” she warned.


Read more: Revealed: Almost 50 data breaches involving pharmacies in 16 months 


“It is so important that companies are seen to look after personal data, both legally and because it gives a competitive advantage – compliance with data protection laws increases the trust and confidence that customers or patients have in your business.”


“Important reminder” for all pharmacies


Ms James added: “This video serves as an important reminder of the risks associated with sub-contracting any aspect of pharmacy services to third parties who may not appreciate the importance of the role.

“Pharmacies are still responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of any part of the service (including delivery) that they contract out to third parties – this includes carrying out due diligence when selecting any contractors and regularly auditing the performance of those contractors.”

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