Boots pharmacy has launched an online cancer consultation service, available to cancer patients wanting advice who are shielding during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The free service connects patients with trained Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacists (BMIPs) who can offer specialist information and support on cancer, its treatment and possible side effects.

The service could potentially help the tens of thousands of people who have started cancer treatment during the nationwide lockdown, and others who have had their treatment delayed or put on hold, says the company. Statistics from Macmillan Cancer Support suggest that half a million people with cancer have barely left the house since lockdown out of fear of catching coronavirus.

Boots UK said its 2,000 BIMP pharmacists have had over 91,500 conversations over the past year with cancer patients and carers in need of support.

The chain has joined up with the digital healthcare company Livi to roll-out the new service to patients.

Boots Macmillan Information Pharmacist, Hafsa Dasu, was one of the first to deliver the new digital service: ‘I feel very passionate about being able to help people and provide reassurance while they are often feeling at their most vulnerable.

'During my consultations, I have been able to provide reassurance, answer questions about shielding and interpret guidance around medication. I have also given emotional support for patients beginning their cancer treatment.’

This comes as two of the newly-built Nightingale hospital are being transformed into cancer testing centres in a bid to clear the large backlog of potential cancer patients, Sir Simon Stevens announced today.

The chief executive of NHS said measures would be taken to begin to tackle the backlog of suspected cases by starting with the conversion of the Exeter Nightingale site.

Virtual services

Earlier this week, an Asda Pharmacy also launched free on-demand GP consultations in-store, to help minimise patient-doctor contact during lockdown.

The virtual appointments will be held on a computer connected to a stethoscope, Medicam, pulse oximeter, blood pressure monitor and contactless thermometer, so that patient readings can be shared with the GP and diagnoses can be made accordingly.

The new service will be free to customers until Saturday 4 July. After this, the price will be £49 for a service that includes issuing a prescription and sick note, if needed.