Rishi Hindocha, superintendent pharmacist at Cherry Pharmacy in Rushden, Northamptonshire, talks to Saša Janković about running a private phlebotomy service.

Service type: Private phlebotomy service

Name and location of pharmacy: Cherry Pharmacy, Rushden, Northamptonshire

Name of superintendent pharmacist: Rishi Hindocha

Why did you start offering this service?

We started in February this year. It was something different. It’s become harder for patients to actually visit a GP and get a blood test unless they had a pre-existing condition, and this was a niche in the market, so I thought let’s try it out and see where it goes.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

It didn’t cost us anything extra. We use the tests from London Medical Laboratory and they supply the tests and the phlebotomy chairs which you need in case the patient faints, which can happen from time to time.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?

My dispenser and I offer the service, and we had to do a few hours of theory training. This was followed by one of London Medical Laboratory’s phlebotomists coming to our pharmacy to watch us withdraw blood. We had to see 10 patients each under their supervision to show we were competent on withdrawing blood and make sure we were following all the safety procedures, and this took a whole day.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

Patients can either buy the tests as a fingerprick test to do at home by themselves, or we can make an appointment to do a venous blood draw for them in the pharmacy, which we send off to the lab for them.

If they choose the home test kit, it comes with a safety lancet to enable them to do the fingerprick test themselves and send the sample off in a prepaid envelope. They need 5ml of blood – about 14 drops – which can take some time to collect and be quite tricky to do themselves, especially if blood flow is slow.

If they choose the venous test it’s bit more expensive, but we can draw blood from the vein for them which is quicker and less painful. They will then receive the results from the lab’s private doctor and we also get a copy, so the patient can either come back to us for a follow-up or see their GP if the results highlight any potential concerns.

It's takes about 15-20 minutes to do the consultation. The hardest bit can be finding a vein so we have to make sure the patient is properly hydrated before the consultation, and sometimes when they are not we have to ask them to get a bit better prepared and come back another time.

Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?

Yes, there’s often a chance to link sell. If the result comes back with vitamin D or iron deficiency for example then we can recommend suitable products to help with this.

How have patients responded to the service?

We’ve had a great response and even seen people who haven’t used our pharmacy before. Word of mouth has helped, as we haven’t really promoted the service yet.

Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?

We see 3-4 people a week for venous blood draw already, and that’s without us really advertising. The lab gave us a bright poster for the window, and next we will get prescription bags and marketing materials.

How much do you charge for the service?

The lab recommends a £30 flat fee to do the test, with the cost of the test itself on top of that, which varies depending on what test they choose.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, definitely. The only thing you have to bear in mind is you need to have enough space in the consultation room as the phlebotomy chair is quite big and bulky, and there’s also the equipment trolley as well.