Kaleem Ahmad, superintendent pharmacist at A+ Pharmacy in Stechford, Birmingham, talks to Saša Janković about being part of Birmingham’s Umbrella sexual health service.

Service type: Umbrella sexual health service
Name and location of pharmacy: A+ Pharmacy, Stechford, Birmingham
Name of superintendent pharmacist: Kaleem Ahmad

When did you start offering this service?

We used to offer a similar service run by Birmingham City Council for long time, and then Umbrella took over the handling a few years ago. We are one of their pharmacy partners providing free, accessible and confidential sexual health services in Birmingham and Solihull, including all types of contraception, and STI testing and treatment.

Why did you start offering this service?

Because community pharmacy is ideally placed to do this. Some areas around here have the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, and people were not getting the care that they needed.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

There weren’t really any set up costs.

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

Umbrella runs training courses and that keeps us up to date.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

Umbrella advertises the service very well on local buses, local radio and billboards, so it’s really well known within Birmingham for that reason, and a lot of patients hear about us through word of mouth.

It’s a walk-in service that enables pharmacies to offer a range of sexual health support such as free condoms, EHC, chlamydia treatment, the contraceptive pill and contraceptive injections, and continuation of hepatitis B vaccine injections started at an Umbrella clinic.

In addition, patients can order free STI testing kits from Umbrella to be sent to their house, or as a click-and-collect option from the pharmacy. On the back of that if a patient gets a positive result for chlamydia they can present to any Umbrella pharmacy and we can offer them antibiotics via a PGD.

Stechford is an area of low economic output but our pharmacy is really accessible so that’s great for patients as they can walk in and access the service. We do it between other jobs so they may have to wait five minutes, but our priority is to get patients in and out and that’s what they want as sexual health is still taboo in certain communities.

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

We also have PGDs for Ella one and levonorgestrel, and can now initiate first use of the contraceptive pill. We will monitor the patient’s blood pressure, weight etc, and allow them to get another course after that.

How have patients responded to the service?

Patients find it very useful as they no longer having to go through their GP to obtain these things. We usually see an increase in customers in the summer months, and recently we’ve been getting quite a lot of young Muslim girls coming in (our area has a 40-50% Muslim population) and they think it’s great as they are not having to go to the doctor.

With Umbrella we also have a mechanism in place so if we find someone being abused, or a child asking about the service, we have direct access to safeguarding measures and we can refer them on. We have had to do that on a couple of occasions but it’s good that we can tell them we can help them and get them the help they need much quicker.

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

We do at least 2-3 morning after pill consultations a day.

How much do you charge for the service?

It’s a free service

Roughly how much a month do you make from offering the service?

Each service has a different fee structure. For example, the morning after pill is £15 per consultation and it’s worth it as it only take about 5 or so minutes to do. When we give out STI test kits patients are given a code to give to us to supply it and we get £1.50 per unit, but if we initiate the kit we get £15 for that.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, I would most definitely recommend others do it. You do have to sign up for it but each year they open up the lines for more pharmacists to the training and join.

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