Boots accused of exploiting NHS

Claims staff are pushed into abusing health check system

Woolworths closures

Boots is being accused of milking the NHS by pressurising pharmacists into carrying out unnecessary health checks.

An investigation by the Guardian found that the chain, the UK's biggest pharmacist, has been giving medicine-use reviews (MURs) - advice on health, diet and medicines - to customers that don't need them.

They are aimed at people who have recently been discharged from hospital, who are taking high-risk medicines, who have respiratory disease, or have heart disease and are being prescribed four or more medicines.

The NHS pays £28 for an MUR, also known as a medicine check-up, or MCU. Each branch of a pharmacist is allowed to carry out up to 400 a year - but the Guardian says that managers are treating this number as a target to be hit.

If a branch carries out the maximum 400 MURs, it will earn £11,200 from the NHS - bringing the company up to £30 million every year.

"400 MURs is an expectation now. We don't need to tell you that," one was reportedly told.

And, says the paper, an email saying the same thing was circulated to stores in 2008.

"I personally don't want colleagues to feel 'brow-beaten' but we do need to deliver our targets of 400 MCUs per store this financial year for two reasons," it reads.

"1. Delivering 400 MCUs is a measure of excellent patient care; 2. The company can make £28 profit for each MCU, so each one we don't deliver is a lost £28."

One pharmacist in the Midlands told the paper he was ordered to carry out an MUR on a man with dementia - as well as on himself.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee is aware of the potential for abuse of the system. But, it says: "NHS Protect have confirmed that as with other systems where remuneration is paid based on a self-declaration, the NHS has monitoring arrangements in place to detect fraudulent activity."

While most Boots staff say it's a great place to work, this isn't the first time that the chain has been accused of putting targets ahead of patients' best interests.

"You can't really be at your best for your patients or customers when all you are thinking of throughout the week is making sure you are driving all of the loyalties and services in order to be good on your score card," writes one Boots pharmacy manager on the jobs website.

"Non-pharmacist managers have got no ethics about the profession, but just pressurising pharmacists in order to meet their targets. Majority of stores need to close really as they are potentially dangerous."

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