Rachel Carter speaks to Hemant Tailor from Minal Pharmacy about how his pharmacy's allergy service helps patients

Name of pharmacy: Minal Pharmacy

Name of pharmacist: Hemant Tailor

How long have you been offering this service? Since 2018.

Why did you start offering the service? We often had people coming in saying they’d tried all the other over the counter treatments, such as loratadine, and were not getting any joy, so we decided to offer the service.

Roughly how much did it cost you to set up the service? Not sure - it was part of a bundle of services we purchased from PharmaDoctor. We paid the fee for that and then in terms of time, we had to go through the Patient Group Direction (PGD) documents and do the training.

What, if any, training did you or other team members have to undergo? I completed PharmaDoctor’s online training, which involved studying the relevant PGD information and taking a test. I also relayed necessary information from that training to other staff members.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve? If a patient came in and enquired about help with hay fever, we would first offer the conventional, over the counter treatments. If they say they’ve tried those and haven’t had relief, then we would ask whether or not they’ve been to see their GP and been prescribed any medication already.

The next step is to make them aware of the service we offer and the basic consultation fee and charge for any item we may give them. We explain that this is available for them on a private basis or they can go back to their GP - we want to give them the option because some people might come back and say, 'look you charged me money and I could have got this from the GP'.

If the patient is happy to proceed, they will need to fill out some forms detailing their personal information, any medications they are on, any contraindications to treatment and so on. We will then discuss this with them as part of a clinical assessment in our consultation room, which is undertaken in accordance with the PGD guidelines.

The forms are very informative and help us to screen patients to check they are eligible. In the event that they are not eligible for the service, we will give them the reasons why and refer them onto their GP or another healthcare practitioner.

The final step is to discuss the treatment options. We offer fexofenadine and Dymista nasal spray.

Are there any opportunities to sell over the counter or prescription products during the consultation or after it? Yes there are - we may offer a saline nasal spray and there are also some creams available for patients who have a skin condition due to their allergies, but we will only offer these if appropriate.

What response have you had from patients? The response has been positive and the service has also helped to retain patients - so those who have come for the hay fever service have come back to our pharmacy for other reasons too.

Roughly how often per month do you carry out the service? We haven’t done a lot of marketing for this service yet, so I would say in the two years we’ve only done about three or four consultations. It needs marketing and it depends on which area you’re in too, if you’re working in a deprived area then £12 to £18 can be a lot of money for someone.

How much do you charge for the service? We charge a £10 fee for the consultation and then the basic NHS drug tariff charge for the medication plus a 50% mark up, so treatment prices range from between £12 and £18.

Roughly how much a month do you make from offering the service? I don’t have a solid figures available. Marketing is the most important thing for this service and also public perception. Many people think all pharmacies do are NHS prescriptions and so it’s about trying to change that perception and show that we have other services available. I think once patients get used to it and it’s been marketed well, it will pick up a lot more.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors? I would say yes, but it depends on what the pharmacy’s strong points are. If they think they’ve got enough patient interest, then they should look at the time aspect because it does take time and you do need dedicated time to offer this sort of service, but if you can do that then yes. It also gives the public another alternative - they have a problem and it can be solved in the pharmacy.