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Elderly patients criticise Boots fees on BBC, while ITV backtracks

The Boots prescription delivery charge was branded “disgusting” on the BBC's Rip Off Britain show

Elderly patients took to the BBC to accuse Boots of discriminatory delivery fees this week, while ITV attempted to counter a previous controversial segment on pharmacists.

On Tuesday’s (January 21) edition of BBC Two’s Rip Off Britain, presenters Gloria Hunniford and Angela Rippon read letters written to the show complaining about the £5 one-off (or £55 annual) home delivery fee introduced by Boots last year.

The programme featured Sylvia Webb, an 80-year-old resident of Kegworth, Leicestershire, who has undergone heart bypass surgery and is on multiple medicines.

Ms Webb described the £55 annual cost as “an awful lot of money”, which she branded “disgusting”.

Although prescription deliveries from Boots are free for orders placed online, Ms Webb said she is “frightened of the internet”.

“They’re supposed to be chemists, they’re supposed to care for you. So why all of a sudden [are they] putting these charges on?” she asked.

In a voiceover, Ms Rippon said that numerous people have complained to the show about the charge, and that they feel Boots is “letting them down”.

Several more residents of Kegworth criticised the charge during the programme, and Ms Rippon said these patients feel “penalised” by Boots, and “forced to fork out for an essential service”.

Watch the programme on the BBC iPlayer.

Boots: No profit made from delivery fee

Boots UK pharmacy director Richard Bradley told C+D the following day (January 22) that charging for prescription deliveries from pharmacies was “not an easy decision to make”, and the company does not make a profit from charging for the service.

Mr Bradley said Boots appreciates that the change has been “difficult” for some patients, and branches still offer free delivery if a patient “genuinely has no other way” to get their prescription, or in the case of emergencies or end-of-life care.

He stressed the “hugely difficult” economic environment for community pharmacy, and said Boots “must adapt and be sustainable” to ensure it can continue to care for all patients across the UK.

Patients who prefer not to use the internet can request a freepost envelope from a pharmacy, and send their prescription to the central hub, which will post the item to customers free of charge, Boots added.

Boots is not the only multiple to make changes to its prescription delivery service in recent years, Lloydspharmacy, Rowlands and Well have also updated their policies. 

Lloydspharmacy charges for all prescription deliveries – other than for housebound patients – while Rowlands provides a free delivery service for housebound patients and no paid-for option.

Well offers a similar model, with free deliveries on prescriptions ordered from its app and for housebound patients.

ITV counters “pretend doctor” comments

Bowing to pressure from more than 2,000 Ofcom complaints and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, ITV broadcast a segment of its This Morning programme yesterday that appeared to counter comments made last week that community pharmacists are “pretend doctors” who can “ambush” patients with healthy living advice.

Presenter Alice Beer spoke to Amit Sahdev, a pharmacist manager at a Well branch in Birmingham, showcasing how the sector can help patients with minor illnesses, provide confidential support and offer advice on prescription medicines, among other roles.

Watch the latest segment on the ITV website (skip to 43 mins).

Read C+D clinical editor Naimah Callachand’s reaction to the initial This Morning segment

What do you make of the recent portrayals of pharmacy on television?

Jenny Etches, Community pharmacist

My patients mostly believed it was an NHS service and never gave any thought to the cost and who was bearing it. Funnily many of them have been able to come in and collect themselves now, or find a relative. This has actually improved things as we can have conversations about meds and related care with the patient or their carer. But it's hard when you take away a perk that people have got used to. We even get it in the neck if we've forgotten to text someone whose script is ready because we've been busy dispensing.... the reminder text is now a human right apparently 

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Ten years of austerity cuts on NHS and other public services, and England elected to go on for another 5 years of the same regime, well reap what you sow mr and mrs english public you get the service and government you deserve......lolx

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

The NHS was ringfenced and was not cut. Spending on it increased every year from 2010.  But because of an aging population and spending on new drugs etc, the NHS needs approx. 5% increase each year which at the time was politically impossible.

If Labour had won in 2010, Alistair Darling was drawing up plans for cuts just as much as George Osborne and in the end by 2015, GO had actually cut less than AD had proposed.  

If you look at Wales, where Labour have run the NHS for years, it is a disaster zone, far worse than England.

If the public want a better NHS then they will need to start looking at tax rates like Sweden of up to 52% of their wages, which would make 'le gillet jaune' protests look like a picnic.  

The public didn't opt for 5 more years, they opted not to send a deluded couple of mad Marxists into Downing St. And no matter how bad things are under BoJo and co. they will never be as bad as if we had JC and JM in No 10 and 11.  

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

No A&E targets, NHS chronic underfunding is what the people really want clearly has very little to do with left or right wing just a decent level of healthcare provision which may need taxation reviewed in the UK

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

'....just a decent level of healthcare provision which may need taxation reviewed in the UK'

Not may, but will need to see taxation increased and significantly.

The NHS receives much less per head than countries like France or Germany. The NHS is also faced with a population that has amongst the worst lifestyles and highest levels of social deprivation in the western world.

So an already underfunded service that is expected to deal with ridiculous public demands. The public should be told: your appalling eating, drinking and exercise habits, your abandonment of elderly relatives, your broken familial culture and your irresponsible attitudes towards using services, all comes at a huge cost. So here is the bill, pay up or shut up.


Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I totally agree Mark.  But people think they can eat and drink what they like and any state advice is seen as nannying, which I must admit I am not keen on, but suddenly become very keen on advice when it means my taxes are funding treatments for all of these bad lifestyles. I am a non-drinking, non-smoking vegetarian.

Greatly Pedantic and Highly Clueless, Senior Management

The English could have a decent healthcare system if they didn't have to fund the rest of the UK. The sooner the UK breaks up the better. 

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Delivery patients & blister pack patients - if they cost YOU money, why not let them go to the next local pharmacy? Let them take the loss

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I agree, I once worked with a contractor to work out it was more profitable to drop roughly ten of their nursing homes than to continue offering the specialized services that they had demanded. When it is not financially viable, to hold onto something like that is in my opinion, silly.

Guess another way to put it is that having a high item pharmacy is not always a good thing.

RS Pharmacist, Primary care pharmacist

Can’t believe that I am siding with Boots,

Many pharmacies including independents are charging for delivery, so unfair to single out Boots.

“They’re supposed to be chemists, they’re supposed to care for you. So why all of a sudden [are they] putting these charges on?” she asked.”

Well, Ms Web the reason is: the GOVERNMENT CUT BACKS!! It's also the same reason why your Crestor has been chnaged to generic Rosuvastatin!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

I thought in primary care, you love when a high cost branded item goes generic? It has nothing to do with government cut-backs.  

And if you go back 25 or 30 yrs, hardly anyone did delivery services, apart from the odd independents, people had legs, or relations. It was started, like with blister packs, and run as a race to the bottom. Boots and Lloyds were holding back as much as possible on delivery as recent as the late 90s.  They and the supermarkets only threw in the towel in the early 2000s when they had to deliver to compete with local independents and small chains.  I can remember working for the big chains Boots, Lloyds, Superdrug, Sainsburys upto about 2003 or so and many of them still didn't offer delivery, for the simple reason they want you in the store spending your money. It may have varied round the country, but that was certainly my experience of who offered delivery.

People don't bat an eyelid for paying Tesco or Asda £4 for bringing their groceries, so why should their medicines be any different? It doesn't come on a magic flying carpet.  Diesel and drivers cost money.  

And don't even get me started on the old "I've got no-body dear..." lot.  So... who gets their shopping, pays their gas bill, takes them to the Dr. ?  I'll never forget one of those with nobody, big house, posh area,  it was a Moss pharmacy, and when she kicked the bucket, 4 nieces appeared as if by magic!   Hmmmm ! 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Moss Pharmacy, eh? That takes me back...

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Haha, you know something is up when Boots says something the Pharmacy Industry majority agrees with!

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Short memory or ignorance. Boots are the reason the problem exists in the first place. That's like giving credit to someone digging a hole and then filling it in. 


O J, Community pharmacist

Amazing....atleast we all seem to have one voice :)

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

You're all trying to put the genie back into the bottle and it's not possible. All the contractors and multiples for years slashing eachothers throats to see who could bend over backwards the most. Free this and free that, multiple deliveries for patients merrily going out as they please but rushing back for Amazon deliveries. You're all to blame and now the chickens are coming home to roost.....

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Totally agree!  100% !

 If you don't value yourself, or the services you offer, then don't expect anyone else to attach a value to them either. And that in a nut shell is Pharmacy's problem, certainly in community, we have never ever valued ourselves. Everything is always free.  

(Does anyone know what happened to Superdrug's FREE sore throat test?!?) 

C A, Community pharmacist

Was that not a "free" test, but the antibiotics cost you money?

ie. the cost of the test was "hidden" or bundled with the cost of treatment?

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

So if the test was negative was a fee charged to the customer? 

ABC DEF, Primary care pharmacist

People are just spoiled since day 1. They have been given too much for free without having any ideas how much these are costing. Since when Tesco or Asda not charge one for delivery because they are elderly? This is just an absolute joke. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Not to mention their in-store pharmacies don't offer any delivery service whatsoever!

Graham Morris, Design

Give a dog a bone and it will be happy. Try taking it back!

David Robertson , Administration & Support

As  someone pointed out, the free delivery was paid out of profit and was never sustainable.  The more you get the more you expect.


How High?, Community pharmacist

Some great comments and I'd like to say well done to you all.

I can only echo your sentiments........

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Patients have been mollycoddled for many years and now expect their medication to magically appear every month without them having to lift a finger.  The delivery service was introduced, in many cases, to try to woo patients but it has never been part of the essential services - apart from certain appliances as  above.

The local supermarket doesn't contact you when it thinks that you may be running out of bread or milk but the pharmacy is "supposed", in patients' eyes, to do so for medication.  Similarly the local supermarket will charge you for delivery - and you have to place the order yourself first.  You also have to be at home when your shopping is delivered!

Quite frankly there need to be a lot of complaints to the BBC regarding this item that was covered on their programme.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Someone doesn't know what the word discriminatory means would be my first thoughts. And also - it's a clear push towards offsite dispensing, where they legally cannot charge you for delivery.

I'm all for highlight bad practices and moral corruption when I see it, but this...nah - there are alternatives available.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Had a few minutes to think about it...Ms Webb's comments are showing a clear lack of understanding about the process. Something that seems to be a constant issue. We need to educate people, so if they are "scared of the internet", they can be taught what's actually happening.

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

Why on earth did the BBC not offer an unbiased story - they should have filmed how a driver turns up at teh mansions for delivery, while the occupant is out? Is that not another side of Rip Off Britain?!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Don't forget the '3 cars on the drive' houses, usually posh German ones or a Range Rover! 

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

These programs are all about championing the 'downtrodden customer' so any excuse to have a go, especially if it's a big brand, is their meat & drink. 


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