Kim Curtis, managing pharmacist at McCartan’s Pharmacy in Newry, talks to Saša Janković about running a travel clinic.

Service type: Travel clinic.

Name of pharmacy: McCartan’s Pharmacy, Newry.

Name of pharmacist: Kim Curtis, managing pharmacist.

Why did you start offering this service?

I started offering this service in 2019. There was a niche in our area because GPs are not obliged to prescribe travel vaccinations or maybe don’t have nurse trained in that sector. We noticed lots of people coming to us to ask what vaccines they required for their upcoming trips, plus there’s only one travel clinic locally but they only work two days a week, so we spotted a gap in the market.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

It costs about £600-£700 for the PharmaDoctor PGD.

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

We already have vaccination skills as we offer flu jabs and have been doing Covid vaccinations as well. We are Numark members and so were able to access free training from them on how to set up a travel clinic, which was very informative.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

People usually come in or ring the pharmacy to ask about the service, and if they want to take it up I’ll send them an email with brief information of what they need to do to create a patient account with the PharmaDoctor e-tool. This enables them to fill in all the details about their travel plans as well as their medical information, details of any health issues or surgery they have had, and whether they already have a vaccination schedule and just need boosters.

Then they get a consultation code which they email back to me, and that gives me a chance to work out what vaccinations they need. For example, if they are going to different areas in the places they are travelling to – cities, rural areas, rainforests – these can need different jabs. Then I order in the stock I need for the vaccines – although we do keep some in. There have been some serious vaccines shortages from the start of the threat of Brexit, so I need to know that if I offer a vaccine to a patient I can get it.

When I’ve got the vaccines I’ll book the patient in for their jabs, and go through everything with them. I’ll also let them know that some GPs will prescribe some vaccines on the NHS for things you can contract in this country – for example, hepatitis A - and then we can provide whatever else they need. I’ll also check if they need malaria prophylaxis, work out when they need to start it, and how long they should continue it when they leave the malaria area.

It’s a lot of work to do and the consultation can be quite long, but what I particularly like about the PDG is that its e-tool guides you through the whole process so you don’t miss anything out – plus we can also do hepatitis B vaccinations for health care professionals via the PGD.

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

As part of the consultation I’ll also advise customers about insect repellents, water filters, malaria nets, plug ins and so on. I’ll talk about the DEET factor in insect repellents and advise on sunscreen, altitude sickness treatment for people who are climbing, products to tackle travellers’ diarrhoea etc. Of course no one is obliged to buy any of these things from us, but it’s worth keeping a good range in stock because people like the convenience of a one-stop-shop once they are in the pharmacy and getting trusted advice and service from you.

How have patients responded to the service?

We’ve had very good feedback, and a lot of people have come back to us for their boosters – for example for hep A and B. We’ve also seen customers who have got the travel bug and subsequently return to us for advice and vaccinations for the next place they are travelling to.

Another useful aspect of the PharmaDoctor service is that people can log in to their patient account in the e-tool to pull up their personal information which shows their vaccine history, and it also lets them know when they are due for any boosters.

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

We see 2-3 people a week during peak season.

How much do you charge for the service?

£25 for a consultation, and vaccines range from £45-£95.

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

Figures not available.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Yes – as pharmacists is enables us to demonstrate and use our professional skills, and the service increases footfall as well as revenue. If you’re going to set up this service, let your local GP surgeries and travel agents know – even our local travel clinic refers people to us now, as they don’t have the capacity.

Read more case studies on travel health services.