A service at Boots which scans a range of moles and pigmented lesions has been criticised for charging customers.
Skin cancer charity Melanoma UK has spoken out against Boots for its new service. The service is provided by Boots and its subsidiary, ScreenCancer UK. Boots state that the service ‘doesn’t provide a diagnosis of skin cancer, but ScreenCancer Dermatology Specialists analyse the moles/lesions and can help identify any suspicious moles that might need further investigation”.
Customers can pay £35 for an initial mole assessment and £15 extra for each additional mole. Boots do recommend that customers getting four or more moles examined see their GP. Customers have a siascope picture taken of their mole by an in-store pharmacist which is then forwarded to ScreenCancer UK to analyse. Customers then receive an email report seven days later.
Dermatologist Dr Christian Aldridge and medical advisor for Melanoma UK, said: “The issue here is what happens if/when the nurse calls. They have only taken a detailed picture of your mole. If they think it’s suspicious they will tell you to see your GP. They cannot do anything else.
They cannot recommend you see a dermatologist privately to have it removed. They will tell you to print off the report, show it your GP (who do not regularly read siascope reports) and to ask for referral/removal of mole. So, this is a private service, which then relies on the already heavily in-demand NHS to do its work for it. The Boots service is not providing an excision of mole service – it’s providing an opinion on a picture – essentially triaging the mole.
Most NHS Dermatology departments provide a free teledermatology service that is available to your GP. The GP can photograph a mole, use the NICE approved dermatoscope to enhance the image which is then visualised by a consultant dermatologist. They can then prioritise and fast track the worrying moles and arrange excision. Telehealth systems will appeal to a small proportion of individuals, whom should be careful of what they sign up to. Customers should ask themselves ‘what is it exactly you want from your “remote” consultation?’
Dr Aldridge is quick to highlight that the NHS has “excellent dermatology teams across the country”. He also states that considering the price of £80 to have four moles checked, customers can pay an extra £20 to see a private dermatologist who would examine their whole body”.
CEO of Melanoma UK said: “I’m really disappointed that a large organisation like Boots has found an opportunity to make a profit from this service. Melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in the UK and the figures keep on increasing.Perhaps the fear element will get the better of some people, but I’d have been far happier to see Boots offer their assistance for free and really try to make a difference to the alarming increase in the rates of melanoma.”
A Boots spokesperson responded to the criticism, saying: “As the UK’s leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer, our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to offering healthcare services, products and expert advice to our customers so that they can feel in control of their health.
We know that early detection of Melanoma is critical in maximising the effectiveness of any potential treatment and so allowing customers to have any moles of concern checked, at times and in locations that are convenient to them is extremely important.
Our customers tell us that they really value this choice of being able to conveniently access healthcare services and so we have been offering private services alongside NHS Services to support our patients for a number of years. The service, which is provided by ScreenCancer UK at Boots stores, has already identified 1 in 10 moles* scanned needed a follow up.
The Mole Scanning Service appointments are available 7 days a week in 50 stores in major towns and cities. We believe that community pharmacy can play a wider role in provision and access to NHS services, and we’d welcome the opportunity to work with Melanoma UK to expand NHS referral pathways to include community pharmacy.
Any customer who has any concerns about a mole or pigmented lesion can also visit their GP to assess whether it requires further investigation. In addition, we have always been committed to helping our customers protect their skin from the sun and remind customers to follow safe sun guidelines by minimising time in the sun, seeking shade and using suitable sun protection.”