Pharmacy giant Boots has been criticised for introducing a £5 delivery charge for medicines, with one care provider saying the move “penalises” some of the most vulnerable people in society.
The company has written to existing customers to tell them a delivery charge will be introduced from 30 September.
This brings them into line with new customers, who have been subject to the charging structure since July.
Boots say one-off deliveries will cost £5 per patient/per delivery – alternatively an annual subscription will be £55 per patient.
Although prescriptions will continue to be free to collect from stores, “housebound” patients with disabilities cannot get out of their homes to access vital medicines.
This leaves care-at-home providers having to pay carers extra money to pick up prescriptions for their clients with many older people unable to afford the costs.
At present Boots high street rival LloydsPharmacy does not charge for deliveries in Scotland.
A care source from Edinburgh told The Scotsman: “If Boots are charging for a delivery service then there are a lot of vulnerable people who just can’t afford that. It’s so discriminatory against folk that are in the worst possible position already.
“Say an older person with a disability gets an infection, they usually need at least one course of antibiotics and it shouldn’t cost them a fiver every time.
“They’re going to have to ask the local council to put visits in for carers to collect the medication and this would cost the council more money. This will impact council services – we would charge the council around £18 per hour and we’d probably need 15 minutes to collect medication.”
They added: “Our initial reaction to the Boots decision was they are preying on vulnerable people who get their medication delivered for a reason and that reason is they can’t go out and get it themselves.
“Most of our service users get it through social work, they’re not private clients and they don’t have a lot of money.
“We just think they’re being penalised.”
Boots says Scottish prescriptions will only incur a levy charge if dispensed and delivered (posted) from England and the patient doesn’t meet the exemption criteria, on the back of the prescription, which includes patients requiring urgent end-of-life care.
Tory health spokesperson, Miles Briggs, said: “The decision by Boots to charge £5 per delivery prescription would have a serious impact on elderly and disabled people who find it harder to access local pharmacies. Patients must be given the support and guidance to switch to an online prescription which does not have a delivery charge. Other companies and local pharmacies continue to provide a free delivery service and patients should be directed towards these companies.”
Boots’ pharmacy director, Richard Bradley, said: “Community pharmacy is unquestionably facing challenges and we need to adapt our offer to respond.
“As a result, we have invested heavily in digital technologies to offer a free, easy-to-use service for delivery of repeat prescriptions ordered online. Patients who make use of the in-store service will be required to pay for delivery should they require it, with exceptions in place to cover our most vulnerable patients in circumstances where their care necessitates delivery.”