Boots launches NHS Pharmacy First Service in England; service gives Boots pharmacy customers access to advice and treatment for seven common conditions without the need for a prescription

Sample article from our Retail & Omnichannel

February 5, 2024 (press release) –

  • The service enables patients in England to access advice and treatment for seven common conditions from Boots pharmacies, without the need for a prescription from a GP*
  • Over 80% of the population is within 10 minutes of a Boots store, making patient care for minor ailments more accessible and convenient than ever
  • The NHS estimates the service will help save 10 million GP appointments by next winter[1] as NHS GP and This Morning’s resident doctor Dr Sara Kayat welcomes the scheme
  • Boots hails the launch as one of the biggest milestones in its history as it kickstarts celebrations for its 175th anniversary year

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. 

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.

Boots has over 2,100 stores across the UK, where over 4,300 pharmacists are supported by over 12,900 pharmacy technicians, dispensers, advisors and healthcare sales assistants. Over 80% of the population lives within 10 minutes of a Boots store, most are open at weekends and many after 6pm, making patient care for these minor ailments more convenient and accessible than ever before.

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.”

Victoria Kinnaird, Pharmacist at a Boots store in Glasgow, said of delivering Pharmacy First in Scotland: “My patients tell me that the service is convenient for them, and they can come straight to Boots to access the healthcare they need. I enjoy it as I’ve been able to develop my clinical skills, enabling me to offer a broader package of care to my patients. I’ve also had positive feedback from local GP surgeries as it frees up their capacity.”

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.

The NHS Pharmacy First Service launches at Boots at the start of its 175th anniversary year. Founder John Boot opened a herbalist store in Nottingham’s Goose Gate in 1849 to offer an affordable alternative to traditional medicines. His son Jesse expanded the business to become a modern retailer and the biggest chemist in Britain, offering over-the-counter medicines sold at a fraction of the normal charge. Throughout its 175-year history, Boots has championed community pharmacy as an accessible route to healthcare and has been a partner to the NHS since it was founded in 1948 – nearly 100 years after Boots.

Today, Boots provides healthcare at the heart of communities through expert advice, a wide range of products and a growing number of services in store and online – from flu and COVID-19 vaccinations** and the NHS Blood Pressure Check Service*** to private, pay-as-you-go services like travel vaccinations** and a range of services via Boots Online Doctor****. Boots customers can also find a wide range of healthcare information, products and services for a wide range of conditions through the Boots Health Hub.

*Subject to availability, eligibility criteria and NHS prescription charges may apply.

**Subject to availability, eligibility criteria and charges may apply.

***England only. Subject to availability. The NHS Blood Pressure Check Service is for adults aged 40 years and over who do not currently have a diagnosis of hypertension, for adults under 40 years of age who have a recognised family history of hypertension may be tested at the discretion of the pharmacist, and adults who have been referred by their GP.

**** Access to treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.

[1] NHS England, ‘Pharmacy reforms to bring new services to the high street’, 16 November 2023

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