Al Patel speaks to Rachel Carter about his pharmacy's weight loss service.

Service type: Weight loss (Lipotrim).

Name of pharmacy: Lee Pharmacy, Lewisham, London.

Name of contractor: Al Patel.

Why did you start offering the service?

We’ve been offering this service since 2010. The reason we started it was because we saw an increase in the sales of over the counter slimming pills, such as Alli, Adios, and a couple of others.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

There were no set up costs. When we contacted the Lipotrim company, they sent us a starter pack free of charge and said start a couple of patients on it and see how you go. So, the initial cost was zero, but we got money for it because we were able to charge the patients for the starter packs.

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

I did the training because it’s only the pharmacist who can do the consultation - it was a video and lots of reading. Following on from that, I’ve trained the staff up to do certain aspects of the service, such as getting the paperwork ready and getting the packs ready.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

If a patient comes in and says they are interested in the service, I give them a leaflet and talk them through how it works. We offer Lipotrim’s full meal replacement programme, which is basically three sachets a day, no food and plenty of water. The sachets are mixed with water and this turns into a nutritious drink, which expands in the stomach to make you feel fuller.

The initial consultation involves taking the patient’s full medical history and some background information. We ask about their job and other scenarios because we need to determine whether it’s going to be feasible for them to actually use the product. We’ve had a couple of chefs coming in, for example, and because their job is to taste the food throughout the day then this programme won’t work for them. Likewise, the shakes have to be made up fresh, so you can’t make the lunch shake up in the morning because it separates - so I have to give patients this advice and tell them what they are allowed to eat. The majority are still interested and choose to carry on.

After the first consultation, the patient has to come back one week later. We will measure their weight and talk through how the first week went, any problems and any queries they may have. After this, I see them every two weeks. The ongoing consultations don’t normally take longer than 10 or 15 minutes, it’s just a weigh-in and a chat about how they are getting on.

How long we are supporting a patient for depends on what their goal is. In the first week they usually lose the most amount of weight and after that it’s regular increments, so we tend to see them until they’ve reached their goal. A few people have gone onto the maintenance packs (partial meal replacement) after reaching their goal, and others have said they’re happy to go it alone, but sometimes they struggle and come back to us to start again.

Are there any opportunities to sell over the counter or prescription products during the consultation or after it?

No - just the Lipotrim products.

How have patients responded to the service?

The feedback is absolutely great. We’ve not had any negative feedback really apart from two chefs who had to stop the programme because they weren’t losing the required weight. I advised them that maybe this diet wasn’t appropriate, but that there were plenty of other diets out there they could use. But, overall, it’s been fantastic; everyone loves this diet.

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

I’ve realised that it seems to be cyclical - everyone seems to want it during the summertime, often because they are going on holiday. At busy times, we normally see six or seven patients a week.

How much do you charge for the service?

We just charge for the products - it is £43 for one week’s supply.

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

On an annual basis, we make about £17,760 for this service.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes - because the profit margin on this is quite good, and apart from the initial consultation, there’s not that much work involved in it. You can also see the success rates, and patients always come back and thank you.

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