Gurdeep Nanra, IP and head of Group Pharmacy Services at PillBox Chemists Ltd, talks to Saša Janković about the utility of running a phlebotomy service.
Service type: Phlebotomy service.
Name of pharmacy: Westlake Pharmacy in Staines, and Pickup Pharmacy in Hayes, London.
Name of pharmacist: Gurdeep Nanra, IP and head of Group Pharmacy Services.
Why did you start offering this service?
I started offering this service in May 2021. Community pharmacy is changing and getting more involved in services, and our focus is on the more clinical ones, which we call the ‘regulated services’ as you can’t do them without CQC registration. In addition, GPs don’t get paid to take blood, which is why they send patients to the hospital, and in some areas CCGs have been looking for other providers.
We set up a sister company with a cardiologist, three pharmacists and two GPs in order to be able to offer a range of services – starting with phlebotomy – as well as recruiting a registered nurse to work alongside us.
Bloods are a really key feature of lots of conditions, so this has enabled us to add blood tests into, for example, our weight management programme, alongside a body composition scan.
How much did it cost to set up the service?
With consumables, so far it has cost approximately £1,000 to train me, along with our MD Davinder Virdee. CQC registration takes about six months and costs around £5,000.
What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo?
I attended a training session in venepuncture, and then had to demonstrate I could correctly administer the technique on a minimum of 15 patients while being overlooked by a practice mentor – in this case a nurse prescriber.
We ran a pilot on 20 members of staff offering them a heart disease risk blood test, which shows a cholesterol marker, and C-Reactive Protein (CRP) marker which shows inflammation – some of which came back quite high.
I have also registered myself on intravenous nutrient therapy training to enable me to administer vitamin drips privately.
In a nutshell, what does the service involve?
Patients come to us either by GP referral or self-referral, and can access the service either as a walk-in or appointment. The service is available seven days a week at our pharmacy locations, as well as in a clinic space we rent in Harley Street.
Patients can book a slot with us for the Harley Street service through the Medichecks portal, where they pay for the test kit online and it gets sent to them to bring to their appointment. We then take the bloods and offer to send the tests off, and the results go back to the patient directly.
For walk-in patients at the pharmacy, we do the test, then I get the results and I put a report together for them in a couple days. If their results are high or low I can get advice from the doctors on our Board, refer the patient on privately or refer them to their GP.
Are there any opportunities to sell OTC or prescription products during or after the consultation?
There’s a lot of opportunity, plus we can talk to patients about our other services. As mentioned, we can link this to weight management, but the main opportunity is around recommending certain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D and iron, which we can sell over the counter.
How have patients responded to the service?
Patients have responded very positively to the service, especially when it shows high or low results in some way. Blood analysis is a really powerful way of seeing things you wouldn’t otherwise know about your health, which may explain things like weight gain or loss, dizziness and faintness. They have mentioned how professionally it is carried out, as well as how easy it is to access the service.
Roughly how often each month do you carry out the service?
We are currently seeing 4-8 patients per week but expect this to increase, especially once we start promoting it to GPs. We are also advertising a home visiting service, and ultimately we plan to roll the service out to more of the 22 pharmacies across the PillBox Chemists group in the South East of England.
How much do you charge for the service?
Medichecks set their own fee for the test but we charge a £25 draw fee, and £50 for a home visit.
Roughly how much a month do you make from offering the service?
Figures not available.
Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?
Yes, definitely. Being able to do bloods is very rewarding and more clinically involved. Having also had training in interpreting blood I can give patients the appropriate advice on how to adjust any high or low reading, and know when referring to a GP is necessary, so I feel I am making a difference to the patient on another level. Having CQC registration at three of our locations has enabled us to fill a gap in NHS service, as well as bringing pharmacy and doctors closer together.
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