High-street chemist Boots is planning to put GP surgeries and hospital consultants in its stores across the UK, according to reports.
The firm’s proposals could include offering emergency weekend surgeries in a move which would help the government in its aim to make healthcare more accessible.
The first consultants’ clinics will be tested at a Boots store in Poole, Dorset, The Guardian newspaper reports.
An agreement with the local primary care trust (PCT) is close to being signed; the clinic, which could offer physiotherapy, healthy heart checks or orthopaedics and podiatry, is expected to open before the end of the year.
A Boots spokesman told the newspaper: ‘We are in detailed discussions with the local PCT. It is great opportunity for Boots and for Poole and fits the aim of making healthcare more accessible.’
Supermarket Sainsbury’s has already been in talks with the government about opening GP surgeries at its stores. However, this move has been opposed by GPs who don’t want to see their advice dispensed next to cigarettes, alcohol and junk food.
A Boots spokesman told The Guardian that the company was in talks to open surgeries around the UK. The newspaper reported a source close to the company as saying that Boots would act as landlord, renting space to the NHS ‘on favourable commercial terms for a city centre location’.
Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA’s GPs committee, said: ‘If Boots merely intends to rent out spare space in their stores to NHS doctors, we have far fewer concerns than if the company intends to directly employ GPs and other doctors and run the surgeries itself for the NHS.
‘However, we have concerns this is symptomatic of the government’s agenda to increase the amount of private sector involvement in the NHS. That may lead to increasing fragmentation of the health service and adversely affect the well liked and respected continuity of care that is so much an integral part of UK general practice.’
Frances Blunden, Which? Prinicpal Policy Advisor, said: ‘On the face of it, these proposals could offer patients more accessible and convenient healthcare, but there is a danger of getting swept away on the novelty of the proposals without really thinking through whether they really are the best way of meeting patients’ needs for safe, effective and convenient healthcare.’