Multiple pharmacy Boots has launched a private mental health service offering treatments for depression and anxiety for £65 per month.
The service, provided through its ‘Online Doctor’ offering, includes a consultation with a clinician, prescriptions for medicines if required and follow up messages.
On 2 March 2022, the multiple said it had “seen a rise in patients asking for mental health advice and support in its pharmacies” and in response launched the ‘Boots Online Doctor Depression & Anxiety Treatment’ service.
The service charges £65 per month for a GP consultation and access to medicines, if needed, including sertraline, citalopram, escitalopram, fluoxetine, duloxetine, venlafaxine or mirtazapine.
Patients may also be signposted to talking therapies, which are separate services.
‘SupportRoom’ offers psychological support over text message or video and costs £40 per month for a subscription.
‘Livi Talking Therapies’ offers cognitive behaviour therapy over video call at a cost of £65 per session.
Boots is also offering a ‘symptom checker’ questionnaire for patients, which is reviewed by a mental health professional, for £10.
The announcement follows comments made by Boots’ chief pharmacist Marc Donovan to The Pharmaceutical Journal in January 2022, in which he suggested the multiple was in the process of setting up a private mental health service to ease pressure on NHS services.
According to data published by the NHS Confederation, 1.6 million people in England are currently on the NHS waiting list for specialised mental health treatment.
Commenting on the launch of the service, Donovan said: “Since the start of the pandemic, our pharmacists noticed an increase in requests from patients for mental health services.
“In response, we’re making dedicated online mental health services available to our patients, providing accessible support and helping relieve pressure on the mental health services already available through the NHS.
“The services you can now find at Boots offer a range of treatment options, including talking therapy and access to prescription medicine for those who need it.
“When it comes to mental health, it’s important that patients can access the treatments that suit them. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety affect people differently and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”
Vicki Nash, head of policy, campaigns and public affairs at mental health charity Mind, said: “High street pharmacists developing and offering their own mental health services shows just how great the demand for mental health support is in the UK.
“While some people might find it easier and more convenient to access mental health support on the high street, it’s important to remember that not everyone can afford to pay for mental health treatment, especially people experiencing poverty who are among those worst affected by the pandemic.
“If more people are turning to private treatment because they face long NHS waiting times, that’s a sign that something is wrong. To address historic underfunding, as well as increasing demand, we urgently need to see the UK government invest in statutory mental health services, free at the point of use,” she added.
Boots began expanding its ‘Online Doctor’ service in June 2021, with patients now able to access treatments for more than 45 conditions, including treatments for asthma for up to £158 for two inhalers, hormone replacement therapy at a cost of up to £150 and adrenaline auto-injectors for up to £99 for two pens.