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Over 85,000 GP visits in England saved through NHS Pharmacy First Service at Boots

25 June 2024
News Healthcare

Over 85,000 GP visits in England saved through NHS Pharmacy First Service at Boots

  • Boots is delivering over 20,000 Pharmacy First consultations to patients in England per month on average
  • Sore throat and Urinary Tract Infections are the most common conditions that patients are presenting with
  • Boots is seeing an uptick in demand for help with infected insect bites this summer

Boots has delivered over 85,000 NHS Pharmacy First consultations in England since its launch earlier this year, potentially saving as many GP appointments.

Under the NHS Pharmacy First scheme, pharmacies in England can now offer patients access to advice and treatment, including some prescription medicines for seven common conditions: sinusitis, sore throat, earache in children, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, or an uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women.*

Acute sore throat has been the most treated condition to date at Boots under this service, but as the weather improves and people start travelling, Boots is seeing an increase in demand for support for infected insect bites. Boots has already seen a significant increase in patients needing support for infected insect bite cases, with consultations more than tripling from April to May.

Claire Nevinson, Superintendent Pharmacist at Boots, said: “Patients in England have welcomed Pharmacy First as a convenient way to access advice and treatment for a range of common minor conditions. Many consultations were held outside typical GP hours, making it easier for patients to get the care they need, when they need it.”

Boots pharmacists say that Pharmacy First in England allows them to better serve their patients. Shazma Khira, a Pharmacist at a Boots store in Nottingham, recently treated a child with an infected ear. She said: “I must say, as a pharmacist I felt empowered. I could clearly see down the child’s ear and could see it was infected. Previously, I’d need to refer them to GP, but I was able to provide antibiotics myself, and that’s great customer care, from start to finish. The patient’s mum was really happy. She said the time it took her to come down, have the consultation with me and get the antibiotics was very quick and easy.”

The availability of the service and the training Boots has provided its pharmacists to deliver it has also saved lives. Helen Carey, a pharmacist at Boots in Storrington, was able to refer a patient straight to A&E for lifesaving treatment thanks to the training she received to deliver Pharmacy First to patients.

Helen said: “Not long after we started delivering the service a mum came into to see me and told me she had a teenage son at home with a sore throat and was having trouble speaking and wanted to know if it was something we could help with. I asked her to bring him in so that I could see him and examine his throat.

“As soon as he walked through the door, alarm bells rang, he was holding a wastepaper bin and just drooling into it, he could barely speak. Remembering the Pharmacy First training we had at Boots, and the symptoms of epiglottitis, I told his mum to take him immediately to A&E.

“The teenager’s father has recently been in to see me and told me that when they got to A&E, he was seen, and immediately blue-lighted to Brighton as an emergency, as his throat was closing up. He told me that his son might not be here if I hadn’t referred them to the hospital straight away.”

Peter Morgan**, the teenager’s father, said: “On a Saturday morning earlier this year my wife and I were woken by our 16-year-old J, who was clearly in pain, drooling from the mouth, unable to talk and indicating their throat hurt. 

“Thinking it to be a sore throat my wife drove to our local village Boots store in Storrington, with J, to see the on-duty pharmacist, Helen, for advice. Helen examined J and immediately advised taking him straight to A&E in Worthing. 

“On arrival at Worthing, J was seen straight away and within a very short space of time was taken by emergency ambulance to The Children’s Hospital in Brighton. Subsequent tests showed a viral infection was causing J’s airway to swell. J was admitted to hospital overnight and received medicines and treatment. 

“I can’t thank pharmacist Helen enough. In subsequent conversations she advised she knew J wasn’t well at all and needed urgent medical attention. Thank you Boots Storrington – you are a credit to the community.” 

The NHS Pharmacy First Service in England is free at the point of access. Patients are charged for any over the counter medicine purchased and those who receive a prescription medicine and are not eligible for free NHS prescriptions will be charged the standard NHS prescription levy for the medicine. No appointment is needed, and most Boots stores offer a private consultation room in the pharmacy area for confidential discussions about patients’ health concerns.

Boots has around 2,000 stores across the UK and over 80% of the population lives within 10 minutes of a Boots store, most are open at weekends and many after 6pm. 

*Supply of treatment is subject to a suitability assessment. In most stores in England only. Subject to availability and store opening hours. Charges may apply.

**Real name has been changed.

*Figures accurate as of 29 February 2024


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Boots is the UK’s leading health and beauty retailer with over 52,000 team members and around 1,900 stores, ranging from local community pharmacies to large destination health and beauty stores.*

Boots serves its customers and patients for life as the leading provider of healthcare on the high street and the UK’s number one beauty destination. It offers an unrivalled depth and breadth of products, which incorporates its extensive own brand range and innovative portfolio of brands, including No7, the UK’s No1 skincare brand, Soap & Glory, Liz Earle Beauty and Sleek MakeUP.

2024 marks Boots’ 175th anniversary year. Founder John Boot opened a herbalist store in Nottingham 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. Throughout its history, Boots has listened, learned and innovated, and it continues to challenge itself to improve its products and services every day.

Boots is part of Walgreens Boots Alliance, which is a global leader in pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing retail.  More company information is available on

*Figures accurate as of 31 May 2024