Reshma Malde, superintendent pharmacist at John Bell & Croyden in London, talks to Saša Janković about running a dietetic and phlebotomy service

Service type: Dietetic and phlebotomy service

Name and location of pharmacy: John Bell & Croyden, Wigmore Street, London

Name of superintendent pharmacist: Reshma Malde

When did you start offering this service?

We started planning it in January 2021 – at the same time as we were seeing 1,000 patients a week coming through the doors for Covid vaccination – and launched it in May 2021.

Why did you start offering this service?

As a pharmacist I feel my key objective is to improve the health and wellbeing of our community by helping each individual understand how they can improve their own health and wellbeing. Lockdown has seen some people get fitter but others have gone the other way with poor diet, smoking, weight gain, and lack of exercise. I wanted to do something to help with this, so I looked at the skills I could utilise in my team and thought there must be more we could do with our trained dietitian.

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

Joanne Kwok – our Lead Dietitian & Nutritionist – is a registered, accredited practicing dietitian. We were already talking to the phlebotomy training company we use about how we could do more together, and they were trying to introduce a phlebotomy service into pharmacies to, so we trained two of our most experienced dispensers to do this.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

Although it sounds like it’s just going to be about diet, our dietetic and phlebotomy service - with blood analysis carried out by London Medical Laboratory (LML) - is designed not just to focus on weight, but to help the person understand where they are starting from, what’s important to them, and what to do to get where they want to be by addressing their dietary and health concerns, lifestyle and food preferences.

Joanne’s expertise is in helping patients understand their diet and habits now, and how she can help them make small, smart changes to improve them. We support them at each step with whatever applicable service we can link them into – from stop smoking to exercise advice – like a personalised pick and mix.

The dietetic and phlebotomy service includes anthropometry, diet and health risk assessments, with each patient getting an individualised plan at the end of the first half-hour consultation. One baseline phlebotomy check is included, to check their cholesterol levels, vitamin D levels, and liver and kidney function. Patients also have the option to test for other parameters and advanced health screenings at an additional price, including full Well Man and Well Woman checks.

At the second 30-minute consultation, a couple of weeks later, we go through the patient’s blood test results to see what has shown up and adjust any actions as necessary. Then we’ll have a 15-minute catch up a month later to see if they need more help and what other services could be of use.

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

Vitamins and supplements can be useful, because most of us don’t have a perfect diet – and Joanne can advise on these.

How have patients responded to the service?

Patients are always surprised that the service includes a full blood analysis because they expect it to just be a nutrition consultation, so the whole holistic approach has been a revelation to many people. They also tell us they are so pleased to be able to access a service like this in pharmacy as it’s so convenient for them.

Because we can link up with so many other professions in store we’ve had some great results. We helped one customer with extreme eczema with dietary changes but she also saw our in-store beautician to give her skincare advice. Afterwards she said she could feel the difference in her skin, but hadn’t known she needed to do these things before using the service.

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

We’ve done 10 consultations so far since we started in May.

How much do you charge for the service?

The consultation is priced at £100.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes, absolutely, but not as a box-ticking exercise. Pharmacists have always been the most accessible healthcare provider and at a time of stretched resources have shown we can help to support the efficiency of our healthcare system. If you put the needs of the customer first you can’t get it wrong.