The Co-op is re-entering the health market with a new initiative allowing orders for repeat prescriptions to be made online.
The company sold its healthcare business in 2014 for £620 million, but is now aiming to re-establishing itself in the sector.
The Co-op will dispense medications ordered through an app, from a new pharmacy distribution centre Lea Green, in north-west England.
Patients will be able to order repeat prescriptions and have them sent to their home or work.
The company is also trialling a “click and collect” system where customers can collect prescriptions from lockers in Co-op stores.
Digital pharmacy accounts for less than 1% of England’s £9 billion prescription market, with the vast majority of the one billion prescriptions dispensed in England every year being repeat orders.
The new app has been created following the acquisition of healthcare technology firm Dimec, linking patients directly to their GP surgeries.
Tim Davies, managing director of Co-op Health, said: “The pharmacy sector is at the start of a digital revolution, as consumers increasingly look for more flexibility and convenience in accessing their medication.
“Our offer will give customers a range of ways to get hold of their medication, with the knowledge that the service is being provided by a brand they know and can trust, in a way that best suits them.
“This app is just the start for our health business. We know 40% of the financial burden on the NHS is due to preventable diseases, and as we grow our health business we want to put the emphasis on proactive healthcare and empower people to take control of their own wellbeing.”
Co-op chief executive Steve Murrells said: “The launch of Co-op Health takes us back into a sector we know well and one where our difference can be felt.
“By harnessing the power of our digital and physical assets, we will deliver a range of distinctive Co-op Health solutions that will benefit our members and their communities alike.”
The move follows the launch of a trial in Co-op food stores in Manchester of “health stations”, where people can undertake a number of health checks such as weight and blood pressure.