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Boots unveils online prescription service, ‘express’ lanes and lockers

Customers will be able to collect prescriptions in under two minutes from express pick-up lanes
Customers will be able to collect prescriptions in under two minutes from express pick-up lanes

Boots has unveiled its free online prescription service, as well as “express” collection lanes and lockers.

The health and beauty giant’s free online NHS repeat prescription service – which has launched via the Boots app and website – will use the expertise of health technology company Wiggly-Amps, which Boots bought in January.

The multiple has also worked with NHS Digital and NHS England to develop the service, which from July will also allow customers across Great Britain to order their repeat prescription from their GP record and send to Boots for dispensing.

It follows the success of Well's online prescription ordering app, while the Co-operative Group returned to the pharmacy market last week by launching its own service.

In-store changes

As part of Boots’ attempt to “create a market-leading, omni-channel pharmacy experience”, the multiple will also introduce “express pick-up lanes” in around 600 branches from the end of the month, with a “promise that customers can pick up their prescriptions in two minutes or less”.

It is also trialling secure prescription lockers in two branches, which will offer “an alternative way to pick up your medicines”.

“Boots will be unrecognisable in 10 years”

Commenting on the announcement, Boots UK pharmacy director Richard Bradley predicted that “in 10 years’ time, pharmacy services at Boots will be almost unrecognisable”.

“Pharmacists will spend less time dispensing and more time offering clinical services,” he added.

“Through our investment in digitising pharmacy, our pharmacists will have more time to bring even greater value to the overall primary care system, offering greater choice and access to healthcare.”

During a conference call to discuss Boots’ financial results in December 2018 – which revealed a drop in pharmacy and retail sales – the multiple’s parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance said it “recognised the need to modernise our customer proposition”.

Skin-scanning service rollout 

Yesterday, Boots announced the rollout of a skin-scanning service across 50 branches.

The £65 ‘ScreenCancer’ consultation will take around 30 minutes and consist of a discussion and questionnaire with a pharmacist, followed by a scan of the area with a dermatoscopic imaging device.

A consultant dermatologist will then analyse the image and questionnaire responses, before sending a report direct to the customer within two working days.

This report can include a diagnosis, advice, suitable over-the-counter product recommendations and, if appropriate, a private prescription.

40 Comments
Question: 
What do you think about Boots plans?

Simon Patel, Student

This is completely against the basic principles of a competitive free market, as these big pharmacies are moving to integrate the NHS services at the expense of independents. Further add in their attempts of automation and the NHS's desire to copy prescription ordering apps and you have a big issue in the market.

Arun Bains, Community pharmacist

Two minute waiting time places unnecessary pressure on the pharmacist just to satisfy a ridiculous bit of marketing? Have Boots considered hiring more staff to man this ‘express lanes’? Another example of the multiple over promising and under providing.

Peter Smith, Student

Boots hire more staff? How long have you been a pharmacist?

Michael Achiampong, Community pharmacist

Agreed Arun! Two miniutes is far from realistic. The reality is that there's never a dull moment in pharmacy practice now. Somehow, there are always queries to resolve; and then there's the prospect of an unannounced GPhC inspector visit! Yikes!

Julie Friday, Accuracy checking technician

Front their annoucement in early April I wonder which stores will be effected.

Richard MacLeavy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I think the idea of the express lane is that will be the lane to collect Hub filled prescriptions in which the patient has received a text to say its ready to collect. Then the idea is you continue to understaff the pharmacy and when customers complain about the long wait times you say "hey why don't you use our hub service next time, then you can collect from the express lane or a locker". This will stop the walkins and move all the work to the hub, then you can fire more staff and repeat the process. Along the way you can think of lots of new services for the pharmacist to do, because we don't want them to have any less pressure in all this

 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Genius. What a company!! Where do I apply?

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Fast lane promising a maximum 2 minute wait...good luck with that one Boots...and to the staff having to put up with the inevitable complaints.

Julie Friday, Accuracy checking technician

Is the actual dispensary still going to be on the shop floor?

Chris Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Another bright idea from Boots...

Patient 'I don't want those tablets'

Pharmacist 'This isn't your prescription'.

Salim Maalim, Community pharmacist

Independent owners should come together and set up their own online  and repeat app service which will allow them to offer the same thing as the big chain before it is too late!

Simon Patel, Student

Couldn't agree more, and that's what we're working on at Healthera, aiming to promote trusted community pharmacies locally. 

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

“The multiple has also worked with NHS Digital and NHS England to develop the service” isn’t this unfair advantage? Are those organisations willing to work with others too? Many independents are so busy managing the day to day, the bureaucratic burden, not having enough funding to invest in more staff etc that I worry we may fall behind with innovation. 

Simon Patel, Student

We totally agree, and that's exactly what we're working on here at Healthera. We are completely with you in standing independent of the wide net of the NHS, and bringing cutting edge technology to small pharmacies first and foremost!

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

Money talks....conflict of interest is not even mentioned.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

“Pharmacists will spend less time dispensing and more time offering clinical services” states Mr Bradley.

Would Mr Bradley be kind enough to enlighten us as to what these clinical services are, how they will be funded, will they be economically viable and an idea as to how many Pharmacists will be permanently employed providing them? 

Or is it perhaps more likely that Pharmacists being “freed up (for services)” is merely an euphemism for redundancy?

 

A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

How can a private company get into bed with Boots?

 

Benie I, Locum pharmacist

£££££££££££££££££

Peter Smith, Student

The appetite which most UK pharmacy chains have for cold, hard cash would make the Sicilian mafia blush - it's a complete and utter disgrace.

A B, Community pharmacist

This online ordering seems to be duplicating a service that most surgeries already provide.

Seems the only difference here is Boots have "worked with NHS Digital and NHS England to develop the service", which I read as "the NHS has worked with a private company to give them an unfair advantage over it's competitors". I'm open to be proved wrong though

A Long Serving Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

How can collecting from a locker be safe? I counsel every patient every time I hand out a prescription and often, at that point, discover a problem. 

Michael Achiampong, Community pharmacist

Agreed! As this is the last opportunity to pickup Rx issues and resolve it before the patient gets home. Just the other Saturday morning, a patient said to me: "I only want ABC branded generic atenolol as XYZ doesn't agree with me".

Jenny P, Hospital pharmacist

I wish more counselling were routine. I'm on a high-risk medication and I can't remember ever being counselled on it, having picked it up from at least three different pharmacy chains, and multiple locations of each. Hopefully with my medicine the prescriber should have done a decent amount of counselling (?dietary restrictions, OTC interactions, etc) but it's still a big assumption to make, that someone's picking up that duty.

Michael Achiampong, Community pharmacist

Agreed Jenny. I've never yet been asked for a MUR in my local supermarket pharmacy. However, they're ever so keen to sign me to the EPS!

 

Interleukin -2, Community pharmacist

Every month you counsel the same patients about the same medications about the same issues and everytime you find a problem?

A Long Serving Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Some patients only need a quick confirmation of ‘you’ve had all this before and are ok with it?’  I did say that ‘often’ that is where a problem arises. It’s similar to the ‘doorknob’ question a GP gets, which is often the most important to the patient. Patients will only voice concerns at the last possible moment. 

Peter Smith, Student

Not sure how you manage that, but very well done anyway. I can only assume that you do not work for Boots!

John Smith, Locum pharmacist

Express lane? Boots ego writing cheques thier pharmacists can't cash. Imagine the confusion and chaos. 'I left my 20-item prescription in five minutes ago and it says here I only have to wait two minutes'. I look forward to Boots increasing staff numbers to deliver such service. Or am I being naive?

''Boots UK pharmacy director Richard Bradley predicted that “in 10 years’ time, pharmacy services at Boots will be almost unrecognisable.Pharmacists will spend less time dispensing and more time offering clinical services ''. This line has been repeated ad nauseum for the last twenty years. The article then goes on to describe one of these amazing clinical services: a 30 minute skin consultation for £65. The problem is, the same service is free from your local GP. This talk of increased services is utter tripe, becuase patients don't want them, much less pay for them. Mr Bradley knows this, but he has been told to oft repeat the line, because the fatcats at the shoe company want rid of that expensive £17/hour pharmacist. Especially now that the PDA are kicking the front doors in.

Pharmacy will be little different in ten years, except that Boots will be doing a lot less presriptions and decrying yet more profit slumps, because they got greedy and emptied the dispensaries of staff. The only problem for them was that the customers weren't far behind.

Pineapple Star, Pharmacy technician

No increase in staff as “workload remains the same” but tell that to 1 staff member trying to serve 2 queues. Can only imagine the carnage as a customer waits 5 minutes in the normal queue only to have staff leave to serve the express queue as a priority. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I am curious what this express pick up is. I can't read the writing there underneath the sign, something something only?

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