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Boots starts charging patients £5 to have medicines delivered to home

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Boots: The most vulnerable patients will still receive deliveries free of charge
Boots: The most vulnerable patients will still receive deliveries free of charge

Boots has started charging new patients to have medicines delivered to their home, with all patients to be charged later this year, C+D can exclusively reveal.

New patients must either pay a one-off fee of £5 or a 12-month subscription of £55 for delivery of prescriptions ordered in-branch, the multiple told C+D yesterday (July 10).

The charge will be extended to existing patients “later this year”, it added.

Boots will continue to provide a free delivery service from its pharmacies for “the most vulnerable patients”, including those who are receiving end-of-life care or where an emergency delivery is needed, it explained (see more on the exemption criteria below).

The multiple introduced an online prescription service via the Boots app and website in May, and deliveries for these orders will remain free.

Patients may still opt to collect their medicines from a Boots pharmacy without charge, the multiple pointed out.

“Unquestionable challenges”

Commenting on the decision to start charging for deliveries, Boots pharmacy director Richard Bradley said: “Community pharmacy is unquestionably facing challenges and we need to adapt our offer to respond.

“As a result, we have invested heavily in digital technologies to offer a free, easy-to-use service for delivery of repeat prescriptions ordered online.”

Exceptions have been made “to cover our most vulnerable patients in circumstances where their care necessitates delivery”, Mr Bradley added.

Patients will not be charged for deliveries in the following scenarios:

  • If they require urgent end-of-life care
  • Where the responsible pharmacist determines that an emergency delivery is required, because of an immediate clinical need; for example, at the urgent request of a GP
  • Where the pharmacy has not met agreed levels of customer service
  • Where specific NHS reimbursement criteria states that pharmacies are contractually obliged to offer delivery at no charge.

Boots is the last of the largest four multiples to alter its medicines delivery service, after C+D exclusively revealed in 2017 that Lloydspharmacy had started charging new customers for deliveries to their homes. It was followed by Rowlands, which scrapped free deliveries for all but “the most vulnerable” patients, and then Well, which limited its free deliveries to those who meet certain inclusion criteria.

Last month, Boots revealed it is planning to close around 200 branches over the next 18 months, as part of a “store optimisation programme”.

28 Comments
Question: 
Has your pharmacy started charging patients for medicines deliveries?

Mike Hewitson, Superintendent Pharmacist

Am I the only one that thinks that when this is true: 

Where the responsible pharmacist determines that an emergency delivery is required, because of an immediate clinical need; for example, at the urgent request of a GP.

The NHS should pick up the tab for the delivery? Sorry but I'm flat out of goodwill towards a system that is chronicly and deliberately underfunding us.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Question: If you feel an emergency supply is required, should you then include as part of the charge for the emergency supply, a delivery fee?
 

Saddened Old Timer, Community pharmacist

Absolutely agree !

Clarke Kent, Community pharmacist

I think the vast majority of readers will agree with your view. Genuine care of the patient, and going above our call of duty at our own expense does not pay the wages, or suppliers. If kindness and compassion was a form of payment, I think the vast majority of pharmacists would be very rich indeed. How many contractors are brunting the cost of simple things like toners as we print more prescriptions due to etp? Once done by surgery staff, whom practices were remunerated for this expense. We continue to take more work on, and eleviate pressure and ‘stress’ placed upon Dr’s (earning 6 figure salaries) that simply can’t cope. Face it, we are at the bottom of the hierachy in this broken healthcare system, yet continue providing valuable services to patients for the cash equivalent of payments in ‘fresh air’ (even that is a generous overstatment for some contractors). 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

 Certainly, and therefore makes perfect financial sense to centralise everything to reduce cost duplication and maintaining several branches worth of supplies and staff.

Richard MacLeavy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I think this spells the beginning of the end of delivery drivers. They charge at branch level to shift these patients to excepting a hub delivery for free. In future anyone asking for home delivery will simply be transferred to the hub and the whole free delivery adverts will reappear. With this workload gone, as well as all Rx's including CD's coming EPS pharmacy drivers will get the chop. 

, Pharmacy Asistant/ Medicine Counter Assistant

Not too sure if it will be the end of the delivery drivers as 60% of their workload is for Care Home Services

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

.....and the pharmacist?

 

Ronald Trump, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Times are changing! Dispensing sweat shops are fading away...Adapt your offering or be left behind...

V K P, Community pharmacist

Where specific NHS reimbursement criteria states that pharmacies are contractually obliged to offer delivery at no charge.

can anyone elaborate what the above obligation is talking about?

the nhs has never funded delivery of meds.

C A, Community pharmacist

You can't charge for deliveries as a distance selling pharmacy, it's in the DSP contract.

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

DSPs

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

Most of the Appliances for which a delivery charge is paid in DT.

C D, Community pharmacist

They mean distance selling, ie online. Everyone seems to accept that you cannot charge for deliveries for this model and the PSNC says you can't, but there is nothing in the regulations that says this. Only a matter of time before that is challenged too.

A B, Community pharmacist

They've left a very large grey area by saying they will deliver if urgent or they have not met customer service standards. The second scenario suggests if you get a good service then you pay for delivery and if you get a bad service you get it free. What would constitute bad service? I can this annoying some patients.

SP Ph, Community pharmacist

""" they have not met customer service standards."""

Hearing from many many Boots customers, this means almost all the patients are eligible for free delivery :-))

Reeyah H, Community pharmacist

Let’s face it - we have no chance as independents. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

The chains have a lot of pushing power compared to the Indies.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

On the one hand, I'm pleased that the big multiples have finally seen the light and started charging. On the other, there is a definite push towards online - can't see that ending well

C A, Community pharmacist

Yes, even if only 10% of their deliveries go online because they don't want to pay, there will be a commensurate reduction in colleague hours at the shop.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

It makes logical sense to adjust hours based on the reduction of items processed in a branch. I would say it's not unique to this industry.
 

Gursaran Matharu, Community pharmacist

The message is very clear from commisioners that there will be limited commissioning from the Community Pharmacy sector either from Regional NHSE&I, STP/ICS or even the PCNs. 

Therefore as private independent businesses, the Community Pharmacy sector needs to realise the change and start to develop private services:

1) Repeat Rx management service, ensuring that the GP has prescribed the NICE guideline medicines and optimise the medicines

2) Delivery service as per Boots (in the article)

3) To provide MCA or MDS for care providers and patients that fall outside of the Equality Act

4) Blood Pressure service, there is a significant cohort of hypertensive patients that are not controlled well, if Community Pharmacists offered an adherence and BP check service on 3 times a year basis, that would significantly improve patient outcome.

5) Offer a simple BMI and weight checking service.

All these services could be packed as a bundle of services under the brand of "Wellness & Health Check." The above are not beyond the ability of your regular Community Pharmacist, question is, how many Community Pharmacists understand the clear message from commissioners?

Addicted to NHS dispensing?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Prescription Ordering Direct (POD) seems to be the answer to regular prescription management. It has been expanding quite a bit in our area, along with the no pharmacy ordering rule.

The optimisation is being pushed by Prescriptionists within GP surgeries, and what could be argued, are in a much better location to do so.

There's already technology for MDS being pushed out, examples could be Pilpouch and if rumours are to be believed, it's something that Amazon and Rowlands have already got their teeth into.

Blood Pressure, BMI, and Weight Management are things that are already being done within surgeries by more cost-effective staff, and it seems like NHS is not interesting in duplication of work, rather make these pre-existing health checks more accessible.

Looking at what Pharmacy can do differently is very important, and we are going to see some fundamental changes in what the standard model is going to be, moving away from the traditional into the modern.

C A, Community pharmacist

1) Who is going to pay for this service? I don't see the CCGs paying, Doctors certainly won't pay to be told they are wrong, patients don't know/care/won't pay.
2) Patients will just vote with their feet and go online as that's free. Contractor items will fall as will profits and they will look to reduce costs further. The DH will notice in a few years that robot dispensing is cheaper and use it as an excuse to cut funding as it isn't face to face or clinical.
3) This is an option, but how many will you need or how much will you charge? Will the sector undercut each other for Rxs.
4) It's a valid point, but how many patients will pay to get better control? How many care? A lot of the time they don't want to be on antihypertensives as they don't "feel" any better. The CCGs are not likely to fund it.
5) There are plenty of other companies that offer weight being watched or slimming for the world at a small cost. What's makes you think pharmacy can get in on it in a major way? Pharmacy is often likely to be the least convenient option.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Lloyds started doing this earlier; however many branches seem to ignore their company's instructions from my experience. For the independents, I suspect they will be able to gain more customers as a result of this article with some clever advertising.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

When I saw that title, I immediately looked for the "unless you use online" cavat. And of course, there it was. It's a very clear push towards using their online services, to which I suspect Boots have pushed a bit of money into it.

MR Dissillutioned, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

Boots pushing patients towards its on line offering - we will end up with massive Amazon style warehouses one for lloyds, one for Boots one for Well not forgetting P2U. Order via the app and its free !!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Definitely. Rowlands are also looking at their offering with the MDS hub using PillPouches, the same design that Amazon are allegedly looking at as well. And Co-op is supposed to be renting Well's robot.

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