Boots makes legal complaints against The Guardian newspaper

The Guardian newspaper has been sent legal complaints from Boots UK after publishing reports about the company’s treatment of staff and the alleged pressure put on employee pharmacists to conduct medicines use reviews.

Split image of The Guardian logo and Boots logo

Boots UK has made legal complaints against The Guardian in relation to several articles following its April 2016 investigation, which alleged that the pharmacy chain had placed undue pressure on its pharmacists to perform medicines use reviews (MURs) so that it could claim the maximum payments possible from the NHS.

Two legal complaints, as revealed on the newspaper’s website, have been made against a story published on The Guardian website on 9 June 2016 about the company’s alleged “predatory model of business”, the pharmacy culture at Boots UK and the alleged actions of company bosses.

One complaint has been made by Boots UK and a second by Simon Roberts, the outgoing president of Boots, and Stefano Pessina, the executive vice chair and chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance, which owns the pharmacy chain.

Source: Walgreens Boots Alliance

According to The Guardian website, Stefano Pessina, the executive vice chair and chief executive officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance, has been named as making a legal complaint against the newspaper

Another legal complaint from Boots UK has been made concerning a story published on 9 June 2016 about the impending July 2016 departure of Roberts.

A further legal complaint from Boots UK is being taken against a letter to The Guardian editor written by Mark Koziol, the assistant general secretary of the Pharmacists’ Defence Association Union (PDAU), published on 12 June 2016. The letter responds to both The Guardian’s original investigation in April 2016 and the story about Roberts’s departure.

In a statement, Guardian News and Media confirmed that it had received legal complaints on behalf of Boots UK, Roberts and Pessina.

Boots UK told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 21 June 2016 that it was “unable to comment” about the legal complaints.

Following publication of The Guardian’s original investigation in April 2016, Boots UK said in a statement that it did not recognise the allegations made in the report and that pharmacists were encouraged to use their professional judgement as appropriate.

The General Pharmaceutical Council, the pharmacy regulator, announced on 15 June 2016 that it had decided not to investigate Boots over allegations that it placed unacceptable pressure on pharmacists to perform MURs. It will be holding a seminar in October 2016 to “examine and understand” workplace pressures in the pharmacy sector.

Koziol says he is not aware of any legal action against the PDAU from Boots, but adds that the union is “not letting go” the GPhC’s decision not to investigate Boots. “There have been workshops by the GPhC into workplace pressures before but they have led us nowhere,” he adds.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which negotiates the community pharmacy contract with the government, expressed fears in June 2016 that NHS England may decide to decommission MURs.

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Citation
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2016, Vol 297, No 7891;297(7891):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2016.20201342