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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?

Heather Pharm Tech, Allocation & Distribution

Considering that this service is supposed to be for housebound patients and half the time they aren't there, they're at the bingo, out shopping, popped out for a coffee with Mavis next door... I would say these are the people that have abused the service to a point that the charge needs to be brought in. It might actually stop missed deliveries and wasting the time of the driver, who in turn may have packages for those who really do need the delivery service.

If you are happy to pay Iceland, Asda et al for your shopping, why not for your medication??

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

Funny, one of the biggest pressures when I started my career was the local Boots offering free delivery of meds in a blister pack. We offered both services, but it was something the patient had to request/indicate a need for - local Boots branches used to actively try and woo people.

Caroline Burge, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Some specific items prescribed attract a home delivery fee that is paid to the dispenser according to Drug Tariff regulations. Does Boots get this plus charge the patient when they dispense said items, or do they waive it?

Clare Tooley , Locum pharmacist

Interesting point! But think it only applies to appliance contractors not Pharmacy contractors? DT page 30 Jan 20 . 

It does apply to pharmacies as well. Strictly speaking, a pharmacy shouldn't dispense these items if they do not offer a delivery service, see part IIIA. Although I don't think this scenario covers many patients.

N O, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Free Delivery only for Few Eligible Appliances for which a fee is paid. Not all elderly people have stoma appliances fitted!!

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

The patients are not to blame. For decades governments have promoted the idea of absolute entitlement in healthcare, absence of personal responsibility and a total disconnect between the cost of service and the (inadequate) tax contribution made.

The result in community pharmacy: a demand for a Harrods level service at Aldi prices, at a speed currently unknown to any other part of the NHS.

The solution: a brutally honest conversation about the cost of health and social care in the UK. An honesty the public dont want to hear and politicians are happy to avoid. I would be happy to see all the entitled demands of public met, handing over the staggering bill in the tax section of their wage slips.

Meera Sharma, Primary care pharmacist

I thin k telling someone how much this service is costing should be done - if I hear one more person talking about how they are entitled to this medicine because they pay taxes, I will scream! Too much reliance on "free" things!


Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

They dont listen to words.

Put NHS spending to 16% of GDP to fund the level of entitlement and absence of personal responsibility they demand and then pay for it with an unavoidable tax contribution that hits everybody.

Make it be known that any further demands will be payed for by further tax increases.

C A, Community pharmacist

Mark all very well and good, but do you not often find the people responsible for the demand don't have wage slips, therefore won't be any the worse off for increasing their demands, nor will they contribute to the funding of said demands?

Mark Boland, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Yes, I do find that, but making them work would not scratch the surface of NHS spending. Abandonment of elderly relatives and the appalling lifestyles of the typical Brit, on their own, is more than enough to crush the NHS.

It is quite simple, if the British public want the type of NHS they demand, they will have to pay for it with an historic increase in taxation and cuts to other departments (Trident, HS2 etc gone).

It wont happen and instead those who work in the NHS will be worked like slaves to bridge the gap.


Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

My question is - If you think you think you should have a free delivery for "life saving medicines", how do you get your food? Gas & electric companies charge a 'service' charge - basically, to deliver the fuel to your home. Why is this different?

Sam Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Amazon prime membership is £79 would be my argument 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

What's the latest on Amazon's interest in penetrating the pharmaceutical trade recently? Been fairly quiet.

Gemma Oram, Locum pharmacist

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Hmm, how interesting. I wonder if they are planning on competing or simply buying out the competition?

C A, Community pharmacist

Maybe P2Us dreams will finally come true?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I've been expecting that was their goal for a long time now. It'd be great for their business to sell up to the big boys.

Sham Kiani, Community pharmacist

Good decision by Boots to charge patients for delivery. Only a matter of time before all other pharmacies charge. 
the draconian funding cuts are to blame, and patients should perhaps write to the health secretary and Local MP about lack of funding for community pharmacy. 
the sensationalising headline from BBC is appalling, perhaps they'll understand when tv license fees are abolished and they are expected to deliver free to air content.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

The funding cuts are exactly because of things like this. The government has watched for several years as every company has been offering free collection and delivery, and free ordering and free blister packs and finally came to the conclusion that if we could afford to fund a driver, and a van and diesel and the staff time to prepare all these blister packs then we were obviously being over-paid as the NHS does not and never has funded us to provide these services. Pharmacy, as always, only has itself to blame. Can you imagine any other professional doing all those things for free?

Another thing I always find annoying is patient's moaning about hospital car parking fees. I feel like telling them, well go pay the hospital the £400 a day you cost them to have you, before you receive any treatment, then you can have the fiver back your husband/wife/etc paid to visit you.  (Plus under PFI, the NHS doesn't own the car park).

As stated by another poster above, the UK public have no idea at all how much any public services actually cost and have been conditioned, much more so since New Labour that you can have everything you want, you can have it yesterday, and someone else will pay. (probably your Grandkids, as the national debt spirals ever higher as we contine to run a deficit) But as we have seen even the Tories are scared to institute any meaningful cuts, to balance the books. We actually haven't had any austerity as public spending has spiralled ever higher and we still haven't gotten rid of the deficit, (that George Osborne was planning to do by 2015 and five years' later it is still around £40bn+). But because demand is never ending and expectations increase every year, people are led by certain sections of the media to just feel as though they are being hard done by.

I think, and I stand corrected, the last Chancellor to make any real terms cuts was Denis Healey in 1976 of around 3%. Can you imagine that today? The BBC, Guardian, Mirror, Unions, all public sector workers squeeling in protest in the media and on Twatter and any where else they could get, and yet no-one seems to want to pay more tax. The trouble in Britain is we expect Scandinavian levels of public sector services but only want to pay American levels of taxation.  

And I am certainly no fan of Boots or the BBC, but the Boots cost works out at just over a pound a week and the BBC license fee at around £3 a week, are people so hard-up they can't afford these things, when we look at how much is spent on what any of Generation X and Baby-boomers would count as luxuries. I can remember 45 yrs ago, being the only house in the street with a telephone! 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

But they still offer free delivery, you just have to use their app.

V K P, Community pharmacist

all pharmacies will not charge. the sector has never been united and will never be. the local pharmacy will cry about the cost of delivery and on the other hand the local pharmacy will happily pinch the patient from boots and offer free delivery. its all about the items at the end of that day.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Completely forgetting the fact Boots started/perpetuated this free delivery, free service bs in the first place.

Seal Patel, Community pharmacist

£55 is not a lot of money for life saving medication to be delivered to your door. Either that or collect it yourself or ask a family member to go collect it. People seem to have time to go shopping, drinking and partying but seem to have huge issue collect their own medication.
Times are changing in pharmacy world and its time patients pay for services as pharmacies are longer finding it viable to offer free services.

C A, Community pharmacist

If only there was some sort of benefit to help people with mobility problems afford things like delivery charges, even better if it wasn't means tested...

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

People seem to have time and money to do many, many things these days apart from the bog standard basic essentials of living. The latest example being parents who are given Child Benefit payments but are unable to afford sanitary products for daughters.  (Yes, I know about the VAT! but wasn't that an EU law we can now get rid of?)


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