Boots stores in England now offer access to advice and treatment, including some prescription-only medicines, for seven common conditions as part of the NHS Pharmacy First Service.

From today, patients do not need a GP appointment or prescription to get treatment for sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, or an uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women.

Instead, they can go to their local Boots store where they can speak to a pharmacist, who can provide advice and treatment if appropriate. This may be an over-the-counter medicine or a prescription-only medicine, depending on the clinical needs of the patient.

If the patient needs additional support, the pharmacist will refer them to a GP or another healthcare provider. No appointment is needed, and most Boots stores offer a private consultation room in the pharmacy area for confidential discussions about patients’ health concerns.  

Seb James, managing director of Boots UK and ROI, said: “The launch of Pharmacy First in England is good for patients, pharmacy teams and GPs and follows the success of similar initiatives in Scotland and Wales.

“The service makes it quicker and easier for patients to access the advice, care and treatment they need, allows our pharmacy team members to further utilise their professional skills and reduces pressures on GP surgeries. It is one of the most significant changes in how we can serve our customers and patients in our 175-year history.”

The NHS Pharmacy First Service in England is free at the point of access. Patients will be charged for any over the counter medicine purchased and those who receive a prescription-only medicine and are not eligible for free NHS prescriptions will be charged the standard NHS prescription levy for the medicine. Any medicines supplied by the pharmacist will be recorded in the patient’s NHS record, which GPs have access to. 

Dr Sara Kayat, NHS GP and resident doctor on ITV’s This Morning, said: “Pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals who are experts in medicines and well-equipped to help patients treat a whole range of minor ailments.

“Pharmacy First is a hugely positive development that will give patients quicker access to advice and treatment, which will free up GP time to allow us to help patients with different healthcare needs. It is a more effective way of delivering primary care to ensure expertise is used in the right places.” 

Pharmacists are highly qualified healthcare professionals who undergo extensive training, studying at university for four years followed by a year of in-work training before becoming qualified. Pharmacists must undergo additional training to deliver Pharmacy First to patients. 

Last year, the top team behind Boots’ big move into digital health services explained why it will deliver benefits for their customers and the NHS.