The particular email – see below – encourages patients to “invite a friend” to sign up to the multiple’s mailing list, and in turn both parties receive a £10 gift voucher to spend in a variety of stores or donate to charity.
The email goes on to ask whether the reader knows anyone who could benefit from Lloydspharmacy’s Echo delivery service – “free NHS prescription delivery, dose reminders and nudges to reorder – repeating the call to “invite [a friend] and start earning rewards”.
Lloydspharmacy has now stopped circulating the email, it confirmed to C+D.
Olivier Picard, owner of three-strong Newdays Pharmacy group in Berkshire, tweeted that the email in question was an “attempt by Echo pharmacy to induce patients to sign up to their NHS Rx services” which is “against the code of conduct and all NHS rules”, he added.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told C+D that “contractors (small and large)” had also raised concerns about the email and AIMp was “liaising with relevant authorities and discussing [the issue] with Lloydspharmacy”.
“Email no longer running”
Responding to the claims, a spokesperson for Lloydspharmacy said: “It has been brought to our attention that an email to our existing patient database has raised some concerns.
“This email intended to broaden our marketing mailing list,” they explained.
“People are eligible for the incentive if they sign up to the mailing list; they do not need to nominate Echo for their prescriptions. However, to avoid any confusion to our patients and partners, this particular email is no longer running,” the spokesperson confirmed.
Pharmacist “insulted and betrayed” by TV ad
In a separate complaint concerning an Echo television advert, Shinali McCusker, pharmacist director of Sefgrove Chemist in London, has written to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) after a patient felt “the advert was misleading, and showed pharmacy on the high street as making mistakes”, she told C+D.
In the complaint letter to the GPhC – seen by C+D – Ms McCusker said: “After watching the advert, I felt very insulted, betrayed that Echo continuously portray brick and mortar pharmacies in a bad light,” and she called on the regulator to “investigate”.
Responding to these claims, Lloydspharmacy said: “In the scene in question, the mix up is down to the male character ‘Noah’ and his forgetfulness to pick up the correct bag when having tea with a friend in a café.
“The scenario makes it very clear that the mistake happens at the café and is Noah’s fault,” the spokesperson added.
The multiple stressed that: “Echo is part of the Lloydspharmacy family, and we consider community pharmacists our colleagues. 7,000 patients per week using the Echo app choose to collect their prescriptions from their local pharmacy.
“Our priority is to offer the most convenient choice to our customers be that delivery, or collection. We see our service as a useful complement to the essential services provided by pharmacies at the heart of communities.”
The GPhC said it did not wish to comment at this time.