Pharmacist and IP Abdul Rehman Javed talks to Saša Janković about meeting an unmet local need by setting up a weekend clinic in Hackney.

Service type: Dedicated weekend clinic, currently offering vaccinations, coronavirus testing and travel health advice.

Name and location of pharmacy: Mare St Clinic, Hackney.

Name of pharmacist: Abdul Rehman Javed.

Why did you start offering this service?

I started offering this service in October 2020. I used to be a community pharmacist, and I then moved into general practice and work at one of London’s largest GP surgeries. During the week I have to be visible and present for the whole GP practice cohort, but I’d noticed that there is a huge local demand for weekend access for vaccinations and travel health advice, so I decided to set up my own weekend clinic in Hackney. At the moment it’s just me and, although I’m a pharmacist and IP, because it’s a CQC registered clinic my official title there is registered manager and service lead. Ultimately, I’d like to add on evening sessions too, and also increase the remit of the clinic further to cover minor illnesses and other things to supplement the work of local GPs.

How much did it cost to set up the service?

The premises is rented and starting up the clinic cost a substantial amount just to open the doors, what with insurance, CQC registration, additional and ongoing training, equipment, a fridge, a lockable cabinet, fire action notices, and so on.

What, if any, training did you have to undergo?

I’ve been an IP for about a year and a half, and I’ve been offering travel health since I qualified as a pharmacist, so I’ve done this before. However, as this clinic is registered with the CQC I have to meet their requirements around safeguarding, regulations, appropriate vaccination techniques and so on. I’m also an affiliate member of The Faculty of Travel Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, so I have access to their training too.

In a nutshell, what does the service involve?

We do Covid testing, offer travel health advice and vaccinations, and meningitis vaccination is also particularly relevant to customers who are not going away right now.

Because meningitis is a bacterial infection that can be passed around quite easily – particularly in crowded locations – and have devastating effects, we see a variety of customers deciding to protect themselves against it.

With regards to travel health, certain countries such as Saudi Arabia require visitors for Hajj and Umrah to have a certificate of vaccination for meningitis because there was historically a large presence of it there and they don’t want to reintroduce it back into the country.

We also see students, especially in the medical sector, wanting to get a booster vaccination for hepatitis B and meningitis if they are doing placements in hospitals and dental practices, as well as healthcare professionals in general who want to protect themselves and those they are treating.

Our customers find us via our social media platforms and leafleting, plus we work with local GP surgeries and other health care establishment who signpost to us.

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

For me, it’s less about selling and more about offering the service. In a one-mile radius there are 10 pharmacies and four GP surgeries, yet only three of the pharmacies open on a Saturday, and just one of the GPs has a three-hour slot for vaccines on a Saturday morning.

How have patients responded to the service?

Feedback so far has been that the accessibility of the clinic is particularly welcomed by people who feel uneasy about taking time off work at the moment to go to appointments.

When I see people who want vaccinations for travelling I also counsel them on their wider healthcare needs while they are away – for example with medications such as warfarin or insulin people have to bear in mind things like time differences and taking their medicines at the right time. My aim is for customers to see that because pharmacists are the experts in medicines we are in the best position to tackle these kinds of things as we can offer them more time and the best advice, taking a holistic approach to work out what else they might need when they are travelling.

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

Because of lockdown I’m only seeing about 4-5 patients a month for travel advice. Meningitis can be any time of year, but also has some particular seasonal uplifts such as for Hajj in the summer, and lots of students enquiring from about September.

How much do you charge for the service?

It’s £20 for a consultation only, which takes about 15-20 minutes. If customers need vaccinations or anti-malarials the fee is just for the treatment.

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

Figures not available.

Would you recommend offering this service to other contractors?

Of course. Travel is something we do quite often in our local communities and beyond, and the time will come when we will be back travelling once more for work, visiting family and friends. The world is becoming ever more connected and it’s faster and easier to get around, but there are implications from this, as Covid has shown us.

Even just from offering a travel health service there’s scope for offering more than just vaccinations, so it’s about understanding your competencies, expertise and knowledge and the requirements of your localities – not just customers, but other HCPs too – in order to meet the needs of the local population. You can find out those needs by reaching out to lead pharmacists in local CCGs, GP practices and PCN groups, which opens us many ways to build rapport with your local healthcare establishments.

Read more case studies on travel health services.