Pharmacist Elena Alexandrou offers a skincare service for conditions such as eczema, rosacea, allergic skin reactions, acne and psoriasis.

Name of pharmacy: Dermacia Pharmacy, Islington.

Name of contractor: Elena Alexandrou.

Why did you start offering the service?

We’ve offered skincare products over the counter for around 15 years.

Skincare is my specialism, so when I took over the pharmacy seven years ago, I introduced a broader range of products that would help people.

What we offer is that first step before a patient seeks treatment from the GP - some conditions are minor and can be easily treated over the counter.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

The only cost to us is the skincare products we stock.

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

Skincare was part of my degree course, and as a team we’ve also had training from the product sales representatives when they’ve come in.

I’ve also been a pharmacist for over 15 years now - when you work with the public for that amount of time, you see a lot of people walking through the doors with many different queries and skin conditions, so you do become confident in knowing what things are and how to advise patients.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

This is an over the counter advice service. 

I take the patient into the consultation room, have a look at their skin, and go through a whole host of questions that enable me to understand them as a person more. These include: how long the skin condition has been there, if there are any triggers, how it feels on the skin, does anything make it worse or better, what they’ve tried already and whether they have seen the GP.

The most common conditions we see are eczema, rosacea, allergic skin reactions, acne and psoriasis. If it’s something I can confidently deal with over the counter, then I will recommend some products. We offer a range of more alternative products, from brands like Avène, Bioderma and La Roche Posay, which are quite good for certain conditions. If it’s something I think needs to be referred on, I will always advise the patient to see their GP.

There is no follow-up as such, but patients generally come back and give us some feedback and I will always advise that if there’s any problems they should come back. It’s all about offering a sympathetic ear, knowing how to talk to people and knowing what you’re talking about - skincare is very complex but if you know what you’re talking about people will listen.

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

Yes - we offer a range of over the counter products. I’m also doing my independent prescribing course at the moment, specialising in dermatology. I’m hoping to incorporate that into what we do already and hopefully that will make it easier for patients to get access to medication, where appropriate.

How have patients responded to the service?

So far, so good. I’ve had a lot of people coming back to say that what I’ve sold them has really worked miracles and they will buy it again.

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

I normally see three or four people per day.

How much do you charge for the service?

There is no charge for the service. Patients just pay for any products they buy.

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

Figures not available.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

I think all contractors should be aware [of skincare issues], because there is more and more going on with people’s skin, due to pollution and allergens. Many simpler issues can be dealt with other the counter and there’s no need to go to the GP, so there are things that we, as pharmacists, can offer.