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Boots faces allegations of scamming money from NHS

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Boots has defended itself against accusations that it has been pressuring staff to recommend unnecessary check-ups for customers.

The British pharmacy chain has allegedly been offering medicine-use reviews (MURs) to customers who don’t need them, in order to gain £28 per exam directly from the NHS.

“We don’t recognise the claims in today’s press which are not representative of the 60,000 colleagues who work for Boots UK and our commitment to developing healthcare further,” a Boots spokesperson told The Drum.

The allegations come following an investigation by The Guardian, which in fact found that Boots managers and executives were expecting pharmacies to meet the legal 400-a-year limit for MURs as a goal. 

At 400 a year, unnecessary MURs could cost the NHS £11,200 per store.

“400 MURs is an expectation now,” Boots staff were told at a recent away day. “We don’t need to tell you that.”

MURs are intended for individuals who have been recently discharged from hospital, are on high-risk medication or have a serious condition. Boots staff apparently informed the investigation that they were not only told to offer them to patients unnecessarily, but that they should also carry them out on themselves. One chemist told The Guardian that he had been directed to perform an MUR on a patient suffering from dementia.

In its investigation The Guardian also references a leaked 2008 email, sent from a Boots senior regional manager:

“I personally don’t want colleagues to feel ‘brow-beaten’ but we do need to deliver our targets of 400 MCUs [referring to medicine check-ups, another name for MURs] per store this financial year for two reasons:

•Delivering 400 MCUs is a measure of Excellent Patient Care
•The company can make £28 profit for each MCU, so each one we don’t deliver is a lost £28.”

“The health and wellbeing of all our colleagues is, and always has been, a priority for the business,” said Boots’ statement to The Drum. “Offering the best care to patients is at the heart of everything we do and this includes offering pharmacy services that are relevant to the changing needs of patients and healthcare systems. Our pharmacists are empowered to use their professional judgement to assess the appropriateness of a clinical service, and we make it clear to our colleagues that these services should not be undertaken inappropriately.

“Over the last ten years, our group has continued to significantly re-invest profit right across Boots UK. We are absolutely clear that the drive for strong financial performance has never been to the detriment of our constant priority on pharmacy, and delivering the best healthcare services in the communities we serve.”

Published on Friday 15 April by Philip Gallagher

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