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In the UK, the New York Times reports that J Sainsbury is getting into the pubic health business…though not the same way that US stores have done it through the opening of in-store clinics run by nurse practitioners.

“At Sainsbury, a team of government-financed doctors will see patients,” the Times writes. “To start, they will work in the evenings and on Saturdays in a fully equipped consultation room in one store in Manchester. If the pilot project succeeds, it is expected to be introduced in other Sainsbury stores this year.

“The supermarket doctors will help not only patients but also the government. British authorities have struggled to improve their taxpayer-financed national health service and to make doctors more readily available to patients. The doctors may also help Sainsbury. Like other retailers, the company is searching for ways to increase profits as growth in its traditional food business has slowed … The clinics are expected to attract more customers and to give the store an incentive to sell prescription drugs, which have higher profit margins than over the counter medication.”

According to the story, “Britain’s national health service offers free medical consultations, but Britons are permitted to register with only one practice close to their home; otherwise, they can pay for private health care. That requirement, combined with the difficulty many people have in seeing doctors during daytime weekday hours, means employees spend 3.5 million working days a year traveling to and from doctors, costing the British economy $2 billion, the Confederation of British Industry estimated … the Sainsbury clinics differ from those at Wal-Mart or other American stores. They are not walk-in clinics, and only patients registered with the supermarket doctors’ practice can book appointments.”

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