Boots UK has called for better sharing of patient data between community pharmacies and the NHS, saying that this could help facilitate ‘personalised and seamless’ patient care, relieve pressure on the NHS and enable community pharmacy to take an expanded role in diabetes management.

Today (14 March) at the Digital Health Rewired festival in London’s Business Design Centre, the multiple announced that it will be piloting a private diabetes screening service from May at seven stores across Manchester, London and Birmingham – cities with a higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes.

Appointments, bookable online, will see patients’ suitability assessed through a few questions. This may then be followed by a finger prick test to analyse a drop of blood using the LumiraDx HbA1c diagnostic test, which provides a result within seven minutes. If the result indicates potential type 2 diabetes, the patient will be advised to discuss the result with their GP.

The multiple said the service may subsequently be rolled out to more stores in the next year if there is demand from patients.

Speaking at the event, Boots UK and Republic of Ireland managing director Sebastian James said that diabetes could be a key area to benefit from greater data sharing between community pharmacy and the NHS.

He said: 'There are currently around 850,000 people living with undiagnosed diabetes and we want to help address that. As well as having community pharmacies like Boots perform screening tests, there could be an expanded role for diabetes management in community pharmacy. Our pharmacy team members could support with checks when patients collect their medicines and feed this information back to their GP via their patient record. That could be really powerful.’

Community pharmacies in England do not have full read and write access to NHS patient health records. Last year, the Professional Record Standards Body advised that pharmacists should have full read and write access to patient records due to the nature and complexity of pharmacists’ involvement in care and treatment.

Mr James said an example of the power of data in improving patient health outcomes included a recent study by Imperial College London, which found that loyalty card data, like shopping data stored on Boots' Advantage Cards, could be an early predictor of ovarian cancer.

He said: ‘Just as we can advise our customers which skincare product might be suitable for them – patient care should be personalised and seamless, offering complete continuity between hospital, GPs and the local pharmacy.

‘Not only would this take critical strain out of the NHS system, but it would also crucially make it easier for patients to get access to the care and services they need. One way to help facilitate this is the better sharing of patient data between community pharmacy and the NHS. With patient consent, better data sharing could transform the way healthcare services are delivered.’

Mr James also revealed that Boots was extending its partnership with Our Future Health, a project aiming to transform the prevention, detection and treatment of diseases.

Since last year, Boots has helped to raise awareness among its Advantage Card membership to attract volunteers to take part in the initiative. Since running a 10-store pilot last summer, Boots has helped to recruit more than 10,000 volunteers. The partnership is being extended to a further 10 stores this month with up to 70 to be added by the end of the year.

Innovations introduced by Boots in the last year have also seen the health and beauty retailer expand its online delivery partnership with Deliveroo and the launch of an online marketplace for third-party brands.

Boots also recently announced that from early May, it would reduce the number of Advantage Card points earned per pound from 4p to 3p for every £1 spent.

Instead, it would offer Advantage Card holders 10% off its Boots own brand range, due to feedback from customers that they would prefer to access ‘instant savings’.