Boots to scrap health services

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The retailer Boots today said it was pulling out of services including dentistry and laser eye correction in a move set to affect up to 850 jobs.

The retailer Boots today said it was pulling out of services including dentistry and laser eye correction in a move set to affect up to 850 jobs.

Chiropody and laser hair removal services will also be ended under the plan, which is part of an attempt to focus on the main operations of Boots The Chemists and Boots Opticians.

The company said it hoped to redeploy as many of the staff positions as possible, although it did not provide details.

In a statement, Boots said the loss-making services, which were set up in 1999 and 2000, had little prospect of making acceptable returns for the group.

The company said the closure move would cost £55 million in exceptional costs - including a one-off accounting charge on the value of the businesses - but that it would help improve trading profits.

There are currently 54 Boots dental practices, including at Reading, Bolton, Bournemouth, Manchester and York. Boots said it would close the majority of the outlets by the end of the year, although it pledged to fulfil commitments to existing patients during that time.

The closure list also includes nine laser eye clinics, 52 chiropody locations and 14 laser hair removal sites.

In the last financial year, the dentistry, chiropody and laser hair removal businesses reported losses of £16.3 million, while there was a deficit of £3.8 million for laser eye correction work.

Today's move comes 18 months after Boots pulled the plug on its brief foray into Wellbeing services such as manicures and massages. Dental care and chiropody were kept following the cull in March 2003.

Under new chief executive Richard Baker, Boots has embarked on a major restructuring as it looks to revive the performance of its core business and fend off competition from supermarket rivals.

As part of the overhaul, it has introduced longer opening hours, extended Sunday openings, modernised pharmacies and introduced clearer signs in stores.

Figures in July offered encouragement to Mr Baker as Boots posted a 4.4% rise in first quarter like-for-like sales at its core stores. That came after a 2.7% rise in annual profits to £544.6 million.

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