Boots the Chemist is testing a 24-hour, seven days a week healthline to assess consumer demand for out-of-hours information.
The company believes it is the first retailer to offer a healthcare phone information service.
The Boots Heathcare Line is being tested in three areas – Newcastle, Preston and Milton Keynes – operated by Reigate healthcare call centre company Access 24.
By the end of the trial, 100,000 Boots Advantage Card holders in the three areas will have been mailed with details of the healthcare line.
Access 24 runs PPP Healthcare’s Information Line and has worked on Bayer’s Canesten Thrush Advice line as well as Novartis’ Nicotinell quit smoking line. The Boots trial runs until June, when the company will assess whether or not to offer the service permanently nationwide.
Pharmacists, nurses and midwives are recruited by Access 24 to answer queries, but Boots is adamant that diagnoses are not made on the phone. A Boots spokeswoman says: “We give out information, we can’t diagnose or provide advice. If someone phones up with symptoms, we would refer them to a more appropriate service, such as their GP.”
She says the line provides information customers would expect from a Boots store and that response has exceeded expectation.
Other information includes dietary and nutritional advice, pregnancy health, and childcare.