/ Health

Boots health checks – are you happy to pay?

If you live near some branches of Boots, you can now pop in and get a sore throat check for £7.50 or a skin cancer check for £35. But how happy would you be to pay for health services you can also get free on the NHS?

It seems that barely a week goes by without tales of new health checks or services that you can buy, offering perhaps greater convenience or speedier service.

As well as the Boots services, which may be rolled out further across the country, private GP home visits are provisionally scheduled to start this summer.

The idea is that you’ll be able to summon a doctor as easily as calling an Uber cab and whichever GP is nearest will get your business and be straight to your front door. The GP might be able to diagnosis, treat, refer, provide medical letters and prescribe medication, as required.

Modern services for busy people?

Are such ideas simply modern services for busy people happy to pay to skip NHS queues – with the added bonus of relieving pressure on an already stretched public healthcare system?

In a sense the argument is no different to one we’ve been having about private health care for many years.

Some people, lucky enough to be able to afford it, already pay for certain aspects of their care. For example, many people are able and content to shell out for a private dentist in an effort to avoid lengthy queues or long waiting times.

So is the idea of popping into your local high street chemist for a check-up or paying for a private home doctor service to ease your mind about some ache or pain, any different?

Would you be happy to pay? And how would you feel, for example, if the GP who visited you via that Uber-style 24 hours a day, seven days a week service was the same one that you usually saw anyway at your local surgery…just by waiting a bit longer.

Would you really be happy to pay in the hope of getting a more prompt and convenient service or would you prefer to rely on the NHS?


This will create a two tier health service. – yet another indication of gradual privatisation of the NHS.

If health checks are carried out at Boots by qualified practitioners who are able to prescribe antibiotics for example for minor problems that you would hesitate to contact your GP and wait up to 3 weeks for an appointment, then I would willingly pay a small amount. I would hesitate to use this service for a potentially more serious problem such as skin cancer when you would need a specialists referral.

I always see a different Doctor when I visit my local practice anyway so it wouldn’t make much difference to me, as long as I knew he/she was sufficiently qualified to practice.


And privatisation creeps furtively into the Health Service. I have a problem with this in many ways, but one is very simple: if GPs will be ‘free’ to do private visits, how come NHS patients have to wait?

I’d be fascinated to see the justification behind the idea. Boots wants to make money, of course – pure and simple – but GPs are already being paid by the NHS. If the argument is that it will reduce stress on the service, then bring in fines for those who make completely unnecessary calls, but don’t make people pay up front.


Where I live you would be extremely lucky to get a GP out from my local practice to visit. If you are still able to drive, they expect you to get up from your sick bed with a high temperature and breathing difficulties and visit the practice. The only time I have received a visit from a GP in the 26 years I have lived here has been from the out of hours service.


There seems to have been a mix of private and NHS for years. Doctors all charge for some services – for the information required to retain certain driving permissions over 70, for some vaccinations, and consultants mix private and NHS.

We do abuse the NHS. A friend recently went to an eye clinic. 24 appointments had been made. At least 10 had not shown up for theirs when he was seen. Perhaps we should pay a deposit when we are given an appointment and get it refunded when we attend – or lose it unless you have a good reason and generally cancelled it in advance.

Mike S says:
18 May 2016

Many appointments are missed when the car park is full making it impossible to attend. This is particularly true in rural areas where there is no bus alternative.


Surprise,surprise didnt anybody see this coming ?, Ian certainly has it figured out . Who owns Boots — it wouldnt be Walgreen’s-USA would it ? One of this biggest pharmaceutical companies in America -think Walmart(ASDA ) then think Walgreens and guess what ? they have a Pharmaceutical Wholesale division supplying—-hospitals . Score out NHS England rename MHE (medical “help ” England ) only the “help ” will be them helping themselves to your money . Can nobody here see(apart from Ian ) that our “beloved ” government is determined to FULLY privatize the NHS . Look forward to mass immigration to Scotland who wont allow it and are responsible for the NHS there. And for those that dont agree just wait 10/20 years from now .


To be fair, Wales isn’t allowing it, either.


Right on Ian ! missed that one , watch out for large increase in population of Wales.


How can Scotland or Wales stop what Boots are proposing to do? If the service is what people want then they will use it and consider it good value for money.


Scotland cant stop it John but the Scottish government can certainly NOT promote it and most people there will not use it . They have already voted in record numbers (now over 1 million voters at the election just past ) to keep the NHS (Scotland in public ownership and free costs for services there ,including prescriptions , only the rich will use it and they are very much in the 1 % bracket in Scotland as well as the left wing thinking there , dont be surprised if demonstrations are held outside Boots in Glasgow.


I expect Boots will take those points on board as they plan their roll-out Duncan.

Seeing how people will drive thirty miles and back to go to the Hospital A&E department rather than go to the GP’s surgery, nothing would surprise me now.


One of the NHS’s big problems is that there are just not enough doctors to meet the needs that are presenting in ever-rising numbers. It’s no good building more hospitals or installing more beds and day treatment facilities if there will not be enough staff to cover them. So anything that abstracts doctors from the National Health Service is a bad move. Hospitals and Primary Care Practices are in a staffing merry-go-round and relying on temps, locums and overtime to cover the service. And yet we have a booming parallel private health system offering all manner of complex procedures of an elective nature leaving those with serious clinical conditions and injuries to be dealt with by a struggling service which, ironically, is actually so good that it is generating more demand than it can cope with. If every physician tied-up doing what I consider to be non-urgent vanity operations [and I know the counter arguments about confidence and self-esteem] were deployed into the NHS that would help. People wanting such procedures would then have to go abroad for them, but such interference in the freedom of surgeons to practice wherever they choose would not be tolerated by the profession and could also be counter-productive.

I have just one objection to the existence of privately funded hospitals carrying out treatments and procedures that would otherwise block up the NHS, and that is that they enable people to jump the queue; but I think that is an inescapable quid pro quo for which there is no satisfactory alternative; we should bear in mind also that such facilities provide valuable overspill bed-space for the NHS during peak admission periods. This is a free country and if people want quicker and more convenient treatment in a place that is more like a hotel than a laboratory they do have the right to pay for it. A lot of the consultants who serve in such establishments do also do work for the NHS [even if for no other reason than that it gives them valuable experience].

Getting back to Boots and the provision of drop-in health checks, examinations, minor treatments, and procedures of the kind that GP practices are supposed to be able to do virtually on demand, I think a lot of people will avail themselves notwithstanding the costs. They will not be wondering where the additional GP contact time is coming from and whether the NHS will suffer as a result [as it probably will]. So many people such as me have no alternative to having private dental treatment and have been paying for spectacles most of our lives. So a few pounds a year extra for dealing with a minor problem without bothering your GP will appeal to many. I sometimes ask for advice from the pharmacist on ailments, irritations and temporary skin complaints so it is really just an extension of that [except for the payment]. An increasingly affluent and time-sensitive population will welcome this service.

I am less happy about the flying doctor service projected through private home visits by established GP’s as this will deplete the resource available at the surgeries to deal with patients who will not be able to afford such a service. More driving time equals less patient contact time. The present out-of-hours NHS service is bad enough already without weakening it further by attracting doctors to a premium payment service. The doctors providing this service will either be doing it to the detriment of their contracted hours for their existing clinics and surgeries, or will be doing it in their own time to the detriment of their own health & safety and possibly that of their patients if there is no restriction on the hours they serve. There is a lack of information on this aspect of the Conversation so my comments could just be speculation.


We had company private healthcare for a few years, and all the doctors we saw also worked in the NHS. You could see a doctor privately within a week, even the next day, but have to wait months to see that same doctor on the NHS.

I would like to know how doctors are employed in the NHS. My impression is that doctors who also work privately, have a lot of free slots. Even our GPs do private work away from the local surgery and we might have to wait a month to see our GP of choice.

It seems to me, there could be enough doctors if they spent more of their time in the NHS and less time in the private sector.

I also think newly qualified doctors should have to work in the NHS for a certain number of years to pay for their training and maybe get a bonus after 10 years for staying.

Pharmacists have long been useful for enquiring about minor ailments. If Boots start charging, does that mean you can’t ask which cream to get for a rash without paying first?