Tesco has invested in specialist training for staff in its in-store pharmacies to help shoppers “make life-changing improvements to their health”. The grocer’s UK chief executive Jason Tarry writes exclusively for Retail Week about the initiative.  

Tesco store exterior

Tesco is launching the Let’s Talk initiative: a unique, free service offered by pharmacists

Cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease are among the most common health conditions we face in the UK. But the reality is many of these diagnoses could be avoided.

Around four in 10 cases of cancer and up to five in 10 cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable.

The steps to prevent these health conditions sound simple: eating better, being more active and getting the right health advice at the right time. But for people in many communities across the UK, it’s a significant challenge. 

“The rising cost of living will only make a healthy lifestyle feel harder to come by. That’s unacceptable. No one should have to suffer as a result of a disease that could be prevented”

With local health services under pressure, it’s not always easy to access support for early detection and intervention. And for families pressed for time and money, eating healthily can feel out of reach. The rising cost of living will only make a healthy lifestyle feel harder to come by.

That’s unacceptable. No one should have to suffer as a result of a disease that could be prevented. 

In these tough times, we must do more to ensure that communities can access the food and support they need for good health – whoever they are, whatever their budget.

That starts with making sure everyone can access healthy food at an affordable price. That’s why we’re continuing with plans to remove multi-buy deals on HFSS (high in fat, salt and sugar) foods from October this year, so customers don’t need to buy more than they need or compromise on health to access great value. 

It’s also why we introduced ‘Better Baskets’ zones in our stores to make it easier for customers to find healthier choices, as part of our ambitious goal to boost sales of healthy products to 65% of our total sales by 2025.

But that’s not enough. We must also do more to ensure that communities can access the health support and advice they need at a local level, in a way that’s convenient. 

“We believe that pharmacists are an untapped resource for local communities”

At Tesco, we want to use our place at the heart of communities across the UK to help customers live healthier lives. With our 373 pharmacies across the country, serving half a million people a week, there’s clearly a big role for our stores to play in providing expert healthcare support and advice.

We believe that pharmacists are an untapped resource for local communities. Despite high levels of trust in pharmacists and their advice, our research found that, in the past year, only 2% of people have been to their pharmacist for a blood pressure check, and only 1% visited to get assessed for type 2 diabetes.

Both are crucial steps in the detection and management of those two serious health conditions.

That’s why, as part of our long-running partnership with three of the UK’s leading health charities, we’ve created our ‘Let’s Talk’ initiative: a unique, free service by Tesco pharmacists to help customers lower their risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Tesco pharmacists and pharmacy team members have been trained by Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation to provide advice and guidance on lowering the risk of these diseases to the community.

The fact that many of the biggest health conditions we face are often preventable is a big opportunity. Located across our Tesco store network, our pharmacies are free to use and convenient, given our longer opening hours, providing confidential expert advice to customers. 

Embracing the role that pharmacies can play in providing grassroots access and intervention will help expand support for these chronic conditions.

By making health advice part of the weekly shop, our customers don’t have to put off asking that question or checking on that symptom that doesn’t seem important.

So if you’re worried about your lifestyle or other health risks in your family, have a symptom you want to check out or a diagnosis you want help to manage, pop in and talk to a pharmacist. It might just change your life.

  • Sign up for our daily morning briefing to get the latest retail news and analysis