Boots plans to open GP clinics in some of its stores.
Boots is to open GP surgeries in its stores.
The chemist will set up clinics across the country, with the first centres opening before Christmas.
It will allow customers to walk in off the street and ask for a test to diagnose illnesses, rather than visit their GP. Results will be posted to them at home or given to them in the store.
The Nottingham-based chain said it will be the first step towards NHS GP surgeries in the High Street.
This year, the Department of Health announced proposals to let family doctors open clinics in chemists.
Boots says there has been a lot of interest from primary-care trusts across the country to bring health care to its stores.
It is also looking at consultants’ clinics and weekend GP surgeries.
Spokesman Oonagh Turnbull said: ‘We have been having talks with trusts across the country about diagnostic testing in stores.
Although these would not be GP surgeries yet, that is our long-term plan. It is some way off, but we are working to get more primary-care health services in our stores.
In the shop there would be an area for a consultation in private, if need be, but the customer would be able to just come up to the counter and ask to be tested. They would get their results in the shop or by post. Their GP would be informed too.’
Representatives from Boots are thought to have spoken about the plans to Paul Corrigan, Tony Blair’s senior policy adviser on health.
The Prime Minister is expected to give the scheme his support in a speech in Nottingham about health-care on Wednesday. He will empha-sise the importance of the commercial sector in helping provide ‘convenient healthcare’.
Boots has already launched 200 sexual health walk-in clinics in London stores, but the new centres will offer other tests too.
The retailer has been trying to find ways to boost flagging sales because of competition with supermarkets. The first consultants’ clinic will be piloted this year at a Boots store in Poole, Dorset.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘We need to extend access to GP services, particularly in those areas with less doctors, and the use of providers such as supermarkets and chemists is just one of the ways that this could be done.
‘For patients, the most important thing is that services are free and provide high quality care.’
Sainsbury’s has also announced plans for GP surgeries in its branches.