Boots fallout sees ‘unprecedented slew’ of mail

Boots shopfront

The Guardian has received what its letters editor suspects may be the “largest haul of mail” ever received about a single article, following reports last week that Boots management was encouraging its pharmacists to abuse Medicine Use Reviews.

Aditya Chakrabortty wrote that Boots had been found to be directing its patients to milk the NHS by offering MURs to patients who would not benefit them, using the cap of 400 MURs a year as a target to aim for.

The Guardian says it has received an “unprecedented slew” of mail, much of it from pharmacists, including Boots and ex-Boots pharmacists as well as those working at other pharmacies.

This “flood of emails” supports the allegations. According to the Guardian, none accuse the paper of exaggeration. Instead, the correspondents have confirmed the report and begged to remain anonymous to protect their jobs.

“Pharmacists are under huge pressure to do 400 a year,” wrote one correspondent. “Professional autonomy is being crushed.”

Another said that “I worked myself into the ground, lost weight and for a large part of it I survived on anti-depressants and sleeping tablets”.

“We dream MURs, we have nightmares about MURs,” wrote a third.

For some extracts from the letters, which the Guardian describes as “an extraordinary firsthand testimony from a profession under acute pressure,” click here.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Royal Pharmaceutical Society has issued a statement on the Boots case, with RPS English Board Chair Sandra Gidley saying the reports “will make difficult reading for many in the sector.”

“The Medicines Use Review and New Medicines Service are important NHS services that can make a real difference to medicines use and patient outcomes,” she says.

“We are very disappointed to hear these reports of substantial commercial pressures which directly contradict both regulatory and professional standards. RPS believes that as health professionals, individual pharmacists must have professional autonomy when providing patient care wherever they are working.

“The Guardian article raises important questions about staffing levels in community pharmacy. The reports of unacceptable pressures that pharmacists are working in have been raised with us by individual members, in various settings and there is an urgent need to address the issue of target setting and unacceptable commercial pressures within large company settings.

“In an era of openness and transparency it would be good for pharmacists, the NHS and the public to be aware of staffing levels in community pharmacies. We would encourage all employers to consider how this could happen.

“We can state unequivocally that the vast majority of pharmacists are doing everything they can to provide great patient care and are using precious NHS resources as effectively as possible.”

Readers of UK pharmacy publication Chemist + Druggist had quite a lot to say on the subject.

“All the major chains are guilty of this, but potential whistleblowing is offset by emploment fall outs. Lloyds, Boots, Day Lewis, etc etc all view MUR’s as a business target rather than an intervention measure to better clinical outcomes,” wrote one reader.

“It’s breaking news because—finally, newspapers have picked up on this. We have known about this but Joe Public has not,” said another.

For more of their responses, click here.

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