Pharmacy giant Boots has apologised after its CEO Sebastian James said that primary care had ‘more or less disappeared’ during the pandemic.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning (4 July) Mr James thanked his staff for their services during the pandemic at a time when the rest of primary care had ‘disappeared’, he said.

‘I think my staff has been incredible and I just want to take a moment to thank all of them for really stepping forward at a time when the rest of primary care had really, more or less, disappeared.

'I think the Boots team did a really, really good job at managing that,' he said.

However, Mr James has apologised after health bodies and staff alike hit out on social media in response to the CEO’s comments.

‘Please forgive me if I chose the wrong words at the moment to describe this,’ he said.

‘I and everyone at Boots have the utmost respect and gratitude for all primary care workers including GPs - they are the backbone of primary care and I did not mean to suggest otherwise.

‘I was referring to the fact that many locations had no choice but to close during the pandemic and in those situations we were happy to step in and help. This was really about thanking our teams and certainly not about diminishing the role of GPs,’ he added.

This comes as Boots’ parent company announced last week (1 July) that Boots UK saw a 3.7% rise in UK pharmacy sales between March and May 2021.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that Mr James’ comments were ‘unfair’ and ‘undermine the work of all primary care workers’.

‘Since March 2020, GPs in England have delivered over 173 million face to face apps [appointments]. Thanks need to be given to all frontline staff & healthcare workers for their efforts throughout this pandemic,’ the body said.

Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) also responded on Twitter and said: ‘GPs, their teams & PC [primacy care] colleagues have worked incredibly hard under huge pressure throughout the pandemic delivering vital patient care & services alongside 75% of the vaccination programme.

‘Seb James’ comments are unfair & insulting- he should set the record straight.’

However, some pharmacists publicly agreed — in part— with some of Mr James’ sentiments, claiming that they did feel abandoned by GPs during the pandemic.

In July, Boots UK announced a company-wide restructuring plan, in which it would cut 4,000 jobs from the company after retail sales fell by almost half during the Covid-19 pandemic. Boots later confirmed that pharmacy teams would be protected.