Boots, the UK’s largest pharmacy multiple, has announced that it will provide bursaries for 500 of its pharmacists to train as independent prescribers (IPs).
In a statement published on its website on 19 July 2022, Boots UK said the training bursaries — worth £7,000 each — form part of a plan to have “a pharmacist IP in each of its stores” and will allow pharmacists to take time off work to complete the training, if needed.
The announcement follows a £16m investment from Health Education England (HEE), over four years, to improve career development opportunities for pharmacy teams, including funding community pharmacists to train as IPs.
However, Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots, told The Pharmaceutical Journal in January 2022 that the HEE funding “is not going to be enough at all” and signalled that the multiple had “plans to train more IPs before the 2026 point, where they’ll come up into the profession with that qualification”.
In its latest statement, Boots said the plan to train more pharmacist IPs “will accelerate its capacity to offer prescribing services in more of its stores”, with its pharmacists invited to apply for the bursary for courses starting in September 2022.
Boots previously trialled a private prescribing service in ten of its stores in England in 2021, the statement said, “with more to be added in the coming months”.
This service is in addition to its ‘Online Doctor’ offering, which Boots began expanding in June 2021, with patients now able to access treatments for more than 30 conditions and 11 testing services.
Through its ‘In-store private prescribing service’, patients can access prescriptions, if appropriate, for 60 medicines to treat conditions such as cystitis, acne, eczema and dermatitis, and impetigo.
A consultation and private prescription through the service costs £14.99, the statement said, adding that the patient would pay a further charge if the medication detailed on the private prescription is dispensed.
Commenting on the training bursaries, Donovan said: “At Boots, our ambition in the coming years is to have a pharmacist prescriber available at every store.
“Pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals that, with the right training and support, will be fully equipped to prescribe certain medicines as well as dispense them. This will give patients greater and more convenient access to the medicines they need.
“Our investment in training for 500 pharmacists and our private service for England demonstrates our commitment to the future potential for prescribing in community pharmacies, which we believe will save time and money for GPs and other parts of the NHS.”
Unlike in England, the NHS in the devolved nations commissions community pharmacists to provide prescribing services through the Pharmacy First service in Scotland and the Pharmacy Independent Prescribing Service in Wales. Pharmacist prescribing is free for patients to access under these services.
However, a government response to a freedom of information request submitted by The Pharmaceutical Journal suggested that a national minor ailments service for community pharmacy in England could be in the works.